Image: Cricket – India v Australia – World Twenty20 cricket tournament – Mohali, India – 27/03/2016. India’s Virat Kohli acknowledges the crowd after winning their match. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
MOHALI, India (Reuters) – Virat Kohli reduced Australia’s bowlers to mere bystanders on Sunday with a masterful 82 that led hosts India to a six-wicket win and a World Twenty20 semi-final against West Indies in Mumbai.
The 27-year-old right-handed batsman resurrected India with his unbeaten 51-ball knock from a seemingly tricky position as the hosts sprinted home in their chase of 161 with five balls to spare.
Steve Smith and his men, who had hoped to end Australia’s ignominy of never winning the T20 World Cup, could only stand and admire as boundaries flowed from Kohli’s bat in front of a packed stadium in Mohali.
“That performance certainly has to be in my top three but probably it is top right now because I’m a bit emotional,” Kohli said after being adjudged player of the match.
“A lot was riding on us playing at home and with the crowd you want to give them as much entertainment as possible.”
The Group Two game was a knockout match for both sides and Australia looked well and truly in the driving seat until the end of the 17th over of India’s chase.
Shane Watson did his part with the ball, picking up 2-23 in his four overs, and also taking a superb catch while running back to dismiss Yuvraj Singh.
Sunday was the last international match for the retiring Australia all-rounder.
In Kohli, who now boasts an average of almost 123 in successful run chases in T20 internationals, and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India had their two most potent weapons in chasing down any target.
FINAL THREE OVERS
India, the inaugural World T20 champions in 2007, needed 39 from the last three overs when Kohli decided to show his class which has earned him accolades as one of the world’s best batsmen currently.
He smashed James Faulkner, who took Australia’s best T20 figures during a five-wicket haul in the last match, for two fours and a six as the left-arm paceman leaked 19 runs.
Kohli then hit Nathan Coulter-Nile for four boundaries in the next over to bring down India’s target to just four runs off the final six balls with Dhoni finishing it off with another four off Faulkner.
Undeterred by a struggling Yuvraj Singh, who limped through a knock of 21 after hurting his ankle, Kohli seemed to know exactly when to take the attack to the opposition.
He made it look easy through his unbroken 67-run stand with Dhoni in just over five overs.
As the ball crossed the ropes after leaving Dhoni’s bat, an emotional Kohli sat down on his knees with a bowed head as if to soak in the adulation of his team mates, the opposition, the crowd and the millions watching on television.
“That was a pretty serious innings there, under pressure. He hit it right out of the middle and he’s done it for a long time,” Smith said after the match. “It took a pretty incredible innings for India to get home.”
Earlier, Australia’s Aaron Finch (43) and Usman Khawaja (26) smashed the bowlers to all corners of the ground after Smith decided to bat on a pitch that was used for the women’s game between India and West Indies earlier on Sunday.
Left-handed Khawaja’s first six scoring shots were all boundaries, four of them coming against paceman Jasprit Bumrah in one over, with Australia racing past 50 before the completion of the fourth over.
Finch, Australia’s captain in the format before he was replaced by Smith shortly before the tournament, then launched into India’s bowling mainstay Ravichandran Ashwin, hitting the off-spinner for two consecutive sixes over long-on.
But some smart bowling from left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and part-timers Yuvraj Singh and Hardik Pandya, who picked up two wickets, in the middle overs halted Australia’s progress as they struggled to hit the boundaries.
Glenn Maxwell (31) took his time at the crease but got out just as he started opening his arms. Wicketkeeper Peter
Nevill then smashed Pandya for a four and a six off the last two balls as Australia took 15 runs in their final over to reach 160-6.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Ken Ferris/Alan Baldwin)
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