India v Australia, World T20 2016, Group 2, Mohali March 27, 2016

Magical Kohli steers India into semi-finals

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India 161 for 4 (Kohli 82*, Watson 2-23) beat Australia 160 for 6 (Finch 43, Pandya 2-36) by 6 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Virat Kohli made a sublime 82 not out off 51 balls to lead India's chase © AFP

Is there a finer chaser in world cricket than Virat Kohli? MS Dhoni perhaps? It was a good thing for India the two of them were together in the dying stages of their quasi quarter-final against Australia in Mohali. Dhoni's men progressed to a semi-final, against West Indies, and ended Australia's World T20 campaign, and the international career of Shane Watson, with a chase of impeccable timing led by Kohli.

Set 161 for victory, India saw their required run-rate balloon up past 10 an over, up towards 12 an over, but Kohli was always poised to prick the balloon. He did so with such perfect timing - 19 runs coming off the 18th over from James Faulkner and then 16 off the next from Nathan Coulter-Nile - that you felt he never doubted himself. In the end, India got home with five balls to spare, madness when you consider they needed 47 off 24.

The win came with a boundary clubbed through long-on by Dhoni from the first ball of the 20th over. Faulkner by then was in the unenviable position of having to keep India to three or less in the final over, such was the devastation that had just occurred. Dhoni had played an important role with 18 not out off 10, but it was Kohli who fell to his knees to celebrate. This was on him. Him and his unbeaten 82 from 51 deliveries.

It was an innings of sheer class, his nine fours and two sixes just fine, clean cricket shots, placed where the fielders were not. Watson, in his final match for Australia, had been their best bowler, and when he finished his fourth over with figures of 2 for 23, Kohli decided the time had come to lift India home. His half-century had come from 39 deliveries, and his next 12 balls brought 32 runs and the victory.

The chase appeared to be stuttering while Kohli was accompanied by Yuvraj Singh at the crease. Yuvraj had rolled his left ankle during the innings and was hobbling through slowly for runs, trying to rely on his ability to hit boundaries. But there was little doubt he was a handbrake on India's innings, and Watson's remarkable running and diving catch at cover to get rid of Yuvraj for 21 off 18 probably played into India's hands.

Watson certainly tried his best to extend his career by another match, bowling Rohit Sharma for 12 and having Suresh Raina caught behind off a bouncer for 10, and by that stage India were 49 for 3 and in some trouble. Shikhar Dhawan had also fallen for 13, top-edging a pull to short fine leg off Nathan Coulter-Nile, but while Kohli remained at the crease Australia knew they were far from safe.

His chasing ability is world class, and that was the gamble Steven Smith took when he won the toss and chose to bat on a surface that offered some pace. Australia's 160 seemed slightly below-par, which might be good in golf but not in a high-pressure knock-out cricket match. Their top order made a fast start by racking up 59 for 1 in the Powerplay, but after that they struggled for momentum.

Khawaja especially looked ominous and 24 of his 26 runs came in boundaries, although Ashish Nehra had also induced a number of plays and misses. Nehra was outstanding throughout his initial three-over spell and when he returned in the dying overs, and finished with 1 for 20 from his four overs. His one wicket was that of Khawaja, who edged behind in the fifth over.

India's bowlers showed that there was spin as well as pace in the pitch. R Ashwin's first over leaked 22 as Aaron Finch launched a pair of sixes over long-on, but in his next over Ashwin had David Warner stumped, the ball turning past his bat as he danced down the pitch. It was an ominous sign for Australia, who have struggled to handle spin in India.

Glenn Maxwell was scratchy in his 31 from 28 balls, and Faulkner too struggled to score at better than a run a ball. Watson struck a late 18 not out and Peter Nevill, not renowned for his power hitting, picked up a four and a six off his only two balls, the last two of the innings, and he and Watson were all smiles as they left the field. Only the Indians were smiling about two hours later.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Laslojams on March 30, 2016, 8:52 GMT

    First Kohli certainly deserves all the attention and admiration he is receiving after his match winning performance, but no batsman in history has consistently performed well enough to compensate for the failure of others.

    India has some problems they have to face. Spin bowling is India's strength, but it is not as good as it used to be. In recent matches, batting has shown some weaknesses. The top order fails, and then they expect Kohli and Dhoni to come to the rescue. Indian batsmen must put some big numbers on the board before losing too many wickets, and do not expect the wicketkeeper and the bowlers to come and save the match.

  • Sachin_now_Kohli_Painful_WC_Losses on March 29, 2016, 15:07 GMT

    If India and England qualify for the final there is a huge chance of Kohli failure Historically most of the people thinks he fails badly in the Test series in English conditions but the truth is that he miserably fails against England in India too and his least average among all test playing nations across all 3 formats is against England.

  • HITUE on March 29, 2016, 14:27 GMT

    Kohli is undoubtedly a great player but India cannot depend on him always . The openers must perform and give India a decent start . Maybe it is time to drop Dhawan and replace him with Rahane . Pandey should also be dropped and replaced with Harbhajan . Yuvraj if fit should play . The momentum is with India and they should win the T20 Cup !

  • asthomas911 on March 29, 2016, 11:11 GMT

    I think:

    (1) Bumrah should only bowl at the death while the opening spell should be between Nehra and Yuvaraj, followed by Ashwin, Jadeja & Raina then end with Pandya and Bumrah combo, if Dhoni prefers to finish it with pace bowling

    (2) The top order and the middle order needs to come to their senses that they have to lift their game

    (3) Rohit and Dhawan make full use of the powerplay available and score at least between 50 and 60 runs in the first 6 overs.

    Lets hope India lift the cup!

  •   Daniel Gochin on March 29, 2016, 10:55 GMT

    T20 needs brave, sometimes risky decisions. Just to trying to contain players like Kohli will never work. As long as he was there at the end, the chances were good that India would win. Even though it might have been risky, surely Smith would have been better off trying to get Kohli's wicket. Some attacking bowling instead of just trying to restrict the run rate. It's unlikely that you'll win by trying to restrict a player of Kohli's ability. Really, your only option is to get him out. T20 requires a different way of thinking. India seems to get that. Australia seems to not.

  • Kashi0127 on March 29, 2016, 9:58 GMT

    It is ridiculous persisting with Rohit Raina and Dhawan inspite of continuous failures. High time to bring in Manish Pandey and Rahane. Even Uthappa would be better any day! Also agonizing to see Yuvraj struggle. He is a great trier and has a lion heart but recognize the fact that he is no longer what he was. Put him out of his agony by dropping him!

  • Ms.Cricket on March 29, 2016, 8:53 GMT

    The reason why Australia lost boils down to one silly decision which was probably Lehmann's idea given that Steve Smith is not prone to making wild choices. That was to play Agar in the first match against New Zealand and then bowl him in the Powerplay, the third over no less which cost 18 runs and released the pressure! Agar had played only one T20 international before and had not done too well in the BigBash either. It was made worse when they (probably Lehmann's idea again) promoted Agar to bat ahead of Faulkner. Funny decisions cost teams, this was a blunder too costly, the margin of just 8 runs in that match lost it for Australia.

  • brusselslion on March 29, 2016, 8:18 GMT

    @Bradmanbestever: A simple solution to reduce the risk of injury further would be for Australia not to enter WCT20 at all. However, I guess that we would then be treated to Aussie fans such as yourself telling the eventual winners that it was a hollow victory because, if the Aussies had been present they would undoubtedly have won it! Ho hum.

  • Jose...P on March 29, 2016, 7:40 GMT

    @BRADMANBESTEVER ON MARCH 29, 2016, 4:00 GMT:

    You wrote:

    "Thank god we (you mean Oz?) got knocked out of the T-slog fest. Our guys can now focus on REAL (emphasis added) cricket and avoid risk of injury."

    A small correction is needed to the second sentence.

    Most of your boys, including the retiring one (and a few 'retired-in-the=past' ones too) will be limbering up to play in IPL or to be effective in their support staff. It will be interesting, if you take a count of the number, which includes past, present, & future players of OZ.

    But...

    If you meant IPL as the REAL cricket, what a somersault in just one sentence!

    A little bit of injury is OK, for a fistful of dollars, no?

    When someone like Boof is making serious comments about inadequate preparation for OZ getting knocked out, comments like yours look a bit strange.

  • sants_real on March 29, 2016, 7:39 GMT

    King Kohli rules again... still 2 to go and other batters need to show up.. As per Dhoni at least from 60% -> 80 %