Thursday, March 31, 2016

World Cup T20 : Semi finals - India vs West Indies

India vs the Windies...always a fiercely contested game.... & when its a semi final knock out game...it becomes that much more competitive. At Wankhade, Mumbai, under the din of a boisterous crowd, Sammy won the toss & elected to field.....an obvious choice against the marauding Indian line up. Both team looking pumped up for a place in the finals.
India have made two vital changes, dropping an out of form Dhawan for Rahane & an injured Yuvi for Manish Pandey....both excellent choices under the circumstances. For the Windies, it was Lebdl Simmons in place of an injured Fletcher...a very dangerous player.
A cautious start by India, as both Rohit & Rahane tried to get used to the pitch, which looked a bit sluggish. Rohit hit a clean six in the 3rd over, as India ambled to 15 for no loss. A couple of boundaries in the next over took his score past 20, his highest in the tournament till now.... home ground....hope soaring within the crowd for the local lad. The ball was coming nicely onto the bat, as the score rushed past 50 with Rohit taking the bowlers to the sword. At end of power plays, it was a very healthy 55 for no loss, with Rohit unbeaten with 41 off just 26 deliveries ( 3 sixes & 3 fours), & Rahane keeping good company with a run a ball 12. The best start for India in the tournament thus far, with run rate nudging almost 9. It was looking very good for the Men in Blue.
But it was too good to be true to last, as Rohit went LBW to Badree, as India lost her 1st wicket at 62 runs, in the 8th over, bringing the man in form, Virat Kohli to the crease. The man, on whose strong shoulders, stood the dreams of a billion. The 9th over saw some incredible run out misses by the Windies, that too by Bravo, as Kohli survived & the stadium heaved a sigh of relief.
At the end of 10 overs, it was a healthy 86 for 1, with Rahane playing a sweet cameo & Virat settling in, despite the scare. The platform looked set for a big score ahead.
100 came up in the 13th over, & end of 15th over, it was 127 for 1. Both Kohli & Rahane in their 40s, batting excellently. Just then Rahane holed out to Bravo, right on the ropes, bringing in Captain Dhoni...what else could India ask for at this stage. Kohli completed his half century in the 17th over off just 33 deliveries, with a chip shot over long on, as 150 for the team came on board. Virat just kept swinging & runs kept flowing, as 17 runs came in the 17th over, 11 in the 18th & 19 in the 19th over, & the last over brought 12.... all in all 59 runs in 4 overs. India ended the innings with a solid score of 192 runs. Kohli is in the form of his life, & today must've come with some protection...... Windies should've got him out four times & missed the opportunities unbelievably....including a simple run out chance when he was just at the crease. In the end Virat was unbeaten with 89 outstanding runs of just 47 deliveries & Dhoni kept company with 15 off 9.
In T20 this year Kohli has batted 12 times, with 10 not outs, & 8 half centuries, with strike rate in access of 175. Incredible figures this.
It was a treat to watch Kohli, Rahane & then Dhoni running superbly within wickets, getting those extra runs..all so vital in a pressure game like this. It was fascinating all through.
Windies looked a little rattled & pressurized in the field. Normally a very good fielding unit, they fumbled in crucial moments & gave India the advantage.

They now had an uphill task to climb 193 runs for a win. Gayle would almost certainly have to fire at the top, with crucial contributions form Samuels, Bravo & Russell. Wankhade is a high scoring ground, & it would be an interesting second session to watch. England had chased down 230 runs against SA in the same ground.
Gayle came out with Johnson Charles to start the chase. But Gayle looked tentative despite a boundary in the 1st over, & Bumrah clean bowled him in the 2nd over itself. Next to go was Samuels in the 3rd over...Windies gasping at 19 for 2.... two very very strong wickets gone. Both of them looked strangely uninterested in batting as it was poor shot selection that got them out, rather than good deliveries. Looked like it was curtains for the Windies at this stage. However, Simmons & Charles went about resurrecting the batting, & at end of power plays, it was 44 for 2. Stupidly then, Simmons chased a wide delivery from Ashwin & Bumrah took a splendid catch at wide gully, but Ashwin had overstepped...a no ball. However, Simmons, despite the reprieve could make no use of the free hit, as the score was 51 for 2 at end of 7 overs. Charles went for some lusty hits & at mid way, ie after 10 overs, the Windies were at 84 for 2, needing another 109 runs off 60 deliveries...tough ask. In the 12th over, Charles brought up his 50 & team's 100, as the score reached 104 for 2. A definite above waist delivery by Pandya was not adjusted a no ball, as the whole Windies dug out got up in unison. .... With the score soaring & no wickets in sight, Dhoni brought in Kohli with the ball & he immediately consumed the dangerous Charles, holing up to long on the ropes, caught by Rohit Sharma. Charles had by then put up a splendid 52 off just 36 balls.
15th over was again eventful, with Pandya luring Simmons to get caught out in covers, but he had overstepped. The free hit went for a massive six, taking the score to 138 for 3. The over had costed India 18 runs, as West Indies were sneaking back into the game. Five overs left & 55 runs to get.... match on for sure. 150 came up in the 16th over, with Simmons hitting another six, this time off Bumrah. 18th over again was eventful, as Bumrah first bowled 3 dot balls on the trot. Simmons obviously had to hit out, & Kohli - Jadeja combo caught him on the ropes, but, Jadeja erred in touching the ropes & it turned out to be a six. At end of 18 overs, it was 173 for 3, with 20 needed of 2 overs. Jadeja bowled the 19th over & was excellent till the last two deliveries, where he gave away one six & one four. With just 8 runs needed off the last over Dhoni brought in Kohli, as a last move. But Russell had already measured up, & a boundary & then a six sealed the match for the Windies. They had made their way emphatically into the finals. Simmons was the obvious choice of Man of Match with a fabulous 82 unbeaten runs in 51 deliveries. This was his 1st match of the tournament, & he grabbed the opportunity to display his class. Russell too was unbeaten with 43 off just 20 deliveries, hitting the winning runs.
For Dhoni, it was a loss that would rue him. The score was good enough, & had the bowlers not overstepped, especially on the two occasions, when the batsmen were caught out, India would've won. Dhoni who has been so successful with his last over "phatkas" saw his luck finally run out. He would reach out for the most unexpected bowler & still win the game....but this time a try with Virat failed. Pandya was the man against Bangladesh, earlier in the tournament, & so many times earlier, Dhoni had won the game with his inventive decisions. But today was not to be........
The pressure had caught up with the Windies & thats how Gayle & Samuels got out. But credit to Simmons, Charles & then Russell, not to buckle & score freely, as they got the team past the target.
One would also feel for Virat Kohli....he was in sublime form, & had single handedly taken India to the semis. All the dreams of another cup, revolved around him.

The West Indies showed that they are not a one man team, but actually a lot of quality players in the ranks. They now face a resurgent England in the finals, whom they had hammered in the league game, with Gayle firing a splendid century. This soft spoken, care free dancing, singing team & laughing team, looks a good happy unit, with a lot of belief in their capabilities.
Indeed the finals on Sunday at the Eden Gardens would be a mouth watering contest.





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