MELBOURNE — India set up a semifinal showdown with England in the Men’s T20 World Cup after a 71-run thrashing of Zimbabwe in their final Group 2 match in Super 12 stage in front of a huge crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.
After K.L Rahul gave India a good start with his 35-ball 51, his second consecutive fifty in the tournament, and Suryakumar Yadav smacked a whirlwind 61 not out off just 25 balls, they reached a mammoth 186/5 in 20 overs, the bowlers made short work of the Zimbabwe batters to bowl them out for 115 in 17.2 overs.
It meant India finished on top of Group 2 with eight points and will meet England in the second semifinal at Adelaide Oval on November 10, while Pakistan will face off against New Zealand in the first semifinal at Sydney Cricket Ground on November 9.
After Zimbabwe began with nine dot balls, Rohit Sharma got India’s first boundary by presenting the full face of the bat for a gorgeous straight drive off Tendai Chatara in the second over. In the next over, KL Rahul swivelled Richard Ngarava for a six over deep square leg.
After Rohit placed a cut wide of backward point off Blessing Muzarabani in the fourth over, the tall pacer bowled a short ball to the Indian skipper, who pulled it straight to the fielder at deep square leg, departing for 15.
Kohli got off the mark on the very first delivery by clipping Muzarabani through fine-leg for four and whipping Wellington Masakadza wide of mid-on later apart from finding the singles very quickly.
Rahul, who played out a maiden opening over, was timing his cuts, lofts, swipes against the turn and pulls off the backfoot with class to fetch boundaries quickly.
But Zimbabwe made a comeback by picking three wickets in 11 balls. Kohli holed out to long-off off Sean Williams, as the 60-run stand for the second wicket was broken. Rahul, after launching Sikandar Raza down the ground for a six to complete his fifty in 34 balls, holed out to long-off on the very next ball.
Rishabh Pant played a flat slog-sweep off Williams, but Ryan Burl ran full tilt to his left from long-on and flung himself to take a superb diving catch. But Suryakumar got India moving by smacking Muzarabani for a brace of fours — scoop over fine-leg was followed by lofting over mid-off.
Two balls later, Hardik Pandya flicked superbly through backward square leg for four as India ended 16th over with 18 runs. Suryakumar stepped up the attack by placing full tosses from Ngarava for four and six to take 12 runs off the 17th over.
Suryakumar continued to toy with the field and bowlers’ minds, scooping and lofting Chatara for four and six respectively in the 18th over. Against Muzarabani in the 19th over, he beautifully timed a straight drive that oozed elegance of the highest quality.
Though Pandya fell, Suryakumar continued to play jaw-dropping shots in the final over off Ngarava. He moved way across the off-stump to whip off his wrists over backward square leg for six.
After reaching his fifty in 23 balls, he repeated the swipe wide of off-stump again to pick another four and ended the innings by scooping over fine-leg for six as India got 79 runs in the last five overs.
In defence of 186, India had success on the very first ball as Wesley Madhevere tried to reach out for a drive on a swinging away delivery from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, but was caught by a diving short cover.
In the next over, Arshdeep Singh lured Regis Chakabva for a drive, but the late swing in off a fuller length meant the ball went through the gate to hit the stumps. With Bhuvneshwar and Arshdeep getting the new ball to swing, it made life difficult for Zimbabwe.
Sean Williams swung away from the body and was caught at the third man on the last ball of power-play off Mohammed Shami. Ervine chipped in the air off Hardik Pandya and was caught by the bowler stretching his right hand. Shami struck again by trapping Tony Munyonga plumb lbw.
Burl was impressive with his sweep and reverse-sweeps, one of which got him a six off Ravichandran Ashwin apart from smashing anything with width for boundaries off the off-spinner, Pandya and Axar Patel.
But Ashwin struck to break the 60-run partnership, forcing Burl to go for an on-drive on a fuller ball and rattle the stumps. He then took out Wellington Masakadza and Richard Ngarava in quick succession to bag a three-fer. Raza holed out on a pull in the deep off Pandya while Tendai Chatara gave Axar Patel a simple catch off his bowling to give India a huge win.
Brief scores: India 186/5 in 20 overs (Suryakumar Yadav 61 not out, KL Rahul 51; Sean Williams 2-9, Sikandar Raza 1-18) beat Zimbabwe (Ryan Burl 35, Sikandar Raza 34; Ravichandran Ashwin 3-22, Mohammed Shami 2-14) by 71 runs. — (IANS)