Virat Kohli socred a brilliant unbeaten 82 off 51 balls to guide India to the last four of the World T20 on Sunday evening.
The hosts will now play Group 1 winners West Indies in the semi-finals.
“It’s all about Virat Kohli,” remarks Sport360’s Jaideep Marar. “India were down and out with 40-odd runs to score in the last three overs but what a magnificent innings that was. Probably the best of the tournament.”
“It was a pressure game and India were finding it difficult to score runs on that wicket and then he (Kohli) comes in and stays in long enough to score a truly unbelievable innings.”
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CHANDIGARH, India — Unlike many of the pre-tournament predictions suggested this World T20 has not been an easy one for India, but thanks to a stunning unbeaten 82 from Virat Kohli, ably assisted by MS Dhoni (18*), they are in the semi-finals after a six wicket win over Australia that went right to the wire.
Not helped by their board and its failure to bring clarity to venues, ticketing and security the players have been under immense pressure to deliver relief on the pitch and financially through the TV revenues that dictate success in the eyes of the BCCI.
Even on the morning of this match talk centred on the pitch as rumours emerged that the Indians had asked for the pitch to be swung in their favour.
As the match unfolded these reports were clearly unjust but it says a lot about the current state of affairs that these stories emerge.
For all his heroics against Bangladesh Dhoni still had a target on his back and the obituaries were being written for Ashish Nehra and Yuvraj Singh.
It is not the best environment to be playing your cricket and if you don’t believe so just ask Pakistan to tell you the virtues of politicking and rumour.
However, if there was ever a time to play for the national badge and answer the critics it was here in Mohali in front of a raucous crowd.
It was tense and the silence that fell around the PCA Stadium as Usman Khawaja gave Australia a flying start would have left some hot under the collar.
In contrast the cheers and sight of flags being flown from all corners of the ground seemed to energise the players as they sought to channel the huge support into a result that would send India through to the semi-finals.
This was certainly the case when Nehra removed Khawaja for a blistering 26 from 16 balls and by the time David Warner and Steve Smith followed him back to the pavilion the Indian faithful were riding a wave of optimism.
Smith was vexed by his dismissal but such is the importance of his wicket there was no empathy from an Indian perspective.
Aussie opener Aaron Finch (43) and then Glenn Maxwell (31) played vital knocks that threatened to spoil the party but India where never out of contention despite tension reaching fever pitch.
India were showing they could take a heavy blow on the chin and come back swinging, all the while working Australia with their jab.
Australia will never go down without a fight and Peter Nevill’s 10 from the last two balls at the death saw them reach a competitive 160-6 from their 20.
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan were studious in their approach early on, hoping to put the Aussies on the ropes with a measured opening stand.
But Dhawan, who looked much improved after a disappointing first three outings, departed in the fourth over as his failure to play the short ball was once again exposed.
One man with no such problems is Virat Kohli who eased the ball to the boundary twice in his first over, sparking chants of “kohli, Kohli, Kohli” as the prodigal son turned on the style.
India were behind the running after the powerplay on 37-2 but with Kohli at the crease anything seemed possible.
Suresh Raina soon perished to the superb Shane Watson (2-23), increasing the pressure on Kohli to deliver a trademark run chase but finding partners in crime hard to come by.
Yuvraj Singh, batting on one leg for the majority of his innings, did provide some support but when he fell for 21 India required 67 from 36 and their semi-final hopes hanging in the balance.
Enter Dhoni, the big occasion being granted India’s biggest performers.
The India captain’s arrival brought about an urgency that had been lacking and alongside Kohli they lifted the crowd with a stunning partnership.
From there the pair expertly navigated India into the last four with in a stand worth 67.
It was an exhibition in run chasing and for a country needing a vital boost there were no better men to see them over the line.
Afghanistan downed the powerful West Indies by six runs in a historic World Twenty20 match in Nagpur on Sunday, handing the never-say-die underdogs their first ever Super 10 victory.
Afghanstan had failed to qualify for the semi-finals heading into Sunday’s match, but were determined to take home a consolation victory against the West Indies, who had already made the final four.
After being sent into bat, Asghar Stanikzai’s side posted a respectable 123/7, with Najibullah Zadran smashing an unbeaten 48 against the 2012 World T20 champions.
The West Indies, who had a perfect record heading into the match with three straight wins, warned that they were not going to let up against Afghanistan.
But their run chase got off to a shaky start, with opener Evin Lewis dismissed for a duck, and some excellent Afghanistan spin bowling led by 17-year-old Rashid Khan (2-26) meant the wickets kept falling.
With the West Indies needing 10 runs from the final over, Najibullah sprinted several metres along the boundary to take a spectacular, tumbling catch and claim Carlos Braithwaite for 13, just when he looked like bringing the West Indies home, as he had done against South Africa on Friday.
Samuel Badree and an injured Andre Fletcher could only manage to push the total to 117 in the three remaining deliveries.
Despite the loss, the West Indies still finish top of Group One, and will play either Australia or India, who clash later Sunday in Group Two, in the semi-finals.
After being sent in to bat, Najibullah top scored for Afghanistan, striking four fours and one six in his 40-ball knock to bring cheers from the small but vocal crowd.
Afghanistan had lost all of their previous Super 10 matches, but they have won new admirers in India with their aggressive and carefree brand of cricket that has caused some anxious moments for their opponents.
Opener Mohammad Shahzad made a confident 24, but was caught off leg-spinner Badree, trying to heave over the infield, just as he was looking exciting.
Asghar Stanikzai also made a handy 16. The skipper shuffled down the wicket to smash a six over long on, but was caught the next ball by Dwayne Bravo off Badree attempting the same shot.
As the wickets started to tumble thanks to some strong fielding, 23-year-old Najibullah held his nerve, guiding Afghanistan past the 120 mark and to what proved a winning total.