WT20 : Simmons Shades Kohli As West Indies Reaches Final
Indian vice-captain’s blitzkrieg 89 not out and a wicket go in vain as India fails to defend 192 for 2
This was the big battle between the team that has perfected the art of keeping its composure under pressure, and a side rich in explosive talent, but that can blow hot and blow cold.
India v West Indies, in the second semifinal of the ICC World Twenty20, was hyped up as a cracker whose destination, it was believed, would be dictated as much by which of Virat Kohli or Chris Gayle would have the better evening, as which team addressed its disciplines better. Kohli comprehensively shaded the big West Indian opener on Thursday (March 31), but India, error-prone and perhaps overcome by the occasion, still came up short as the Caribbean side found heroes of its own, most notably late replacement Lendl Simmons who would be well advised to buy a lottery ticket.
At his adopted Wankhede Stadium home, on a surface that he knows exceedingly well and which played true for the entire duration of the match, Simmons rode his luck – he was caught off no-balls from R Ashwin and Hardik Pandya when 18 and 50 respectively – but also showcased extraordinary power-hitting skills to turn a stiff run-chase into a walk in the park.
Kohli had unveiled another veritable delight, an unbeaten 89 that highlighted India’s 192 for 2 – Ajinkya Rahane for Shikhar Dhawan worked as he and Rohit Sharma realised 62 for the first wicket – on being put in. It wasn’t a trifling target even on an excellent batting strip; India roared into the ascendancy when Jasprit Bumrah knocked Gayle out with a full toss and Ashish Nehra foxed Marlon Samuels with a slower delivery as West Indies floundered at 19 for 2.
Simmons, who only flew in on Tuesday to replace the injured Andre Fletcher, found an equally like-minded attacking partner in Johnson Charles, West Indies riding on their 97-run third-wicket alliance of just 62 deliveries to complete a rousing seven-wicket win. It rounded off a great day for West Indian cricket – Stafanie Taylor’s ladies had earlier made their maiden entry into the final of the ICC Women’s World T20.
Fours and sixes flowed with spectacular regularity with the ninth over, Ashwin’s second which yielded 13, the catalyst. Only two of the next 11 overs went for less than 10 as West Indies subjected India to one of their most painful defeats in recent times and set up a Sunday date at the Eden Gardens with England.
Charles, who had got the entertainment underway, departed – out to Kohli – with 77 still needed but with Simmons in full cry, Andre Russell flexed his own power-packed muscles with telling effect. Russell, who smacked the winning six off Kohli deep into the midwicket stands with – deceptively — only two balls left, was a more than equal partner in the unseparated fourth-wicket stand of 80 that came off just 60 deliveries, hammering three fours and four sixes in his 20-ball 43. Simmons was almost stately in comparison – 82 off 51, seven fours, fives sixes. In all, 20 fours and 11 sixes, Gayle one four. And Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy and Carlos Brathwaite not even needed. England beware.
With little purchase on offer, especially for the spinners with the dew kicking in, India’s bowlers had no answers to the boundary-minded approach of West Indies. When they did elicit mistakes, the bowlers made the cardinal sin of overstepping – twice. The spinners made no impression and in a bid to take the game to the last over, Mahendra Singh Dhoni had no option but to bowl Nehra and Bumrah out by the 18th over.
Kohli, down on his haunches by the end of it all, will acknowledge that his own unbeaten 89 wasn’t his most fluent in recent times, the start particularly scratchy as he seemed too charged up. He should have been run out off his third legal delivery, a free-hit slower ball from Bravo that got under his attempted hoick and trickled through to Denesh Ramdin.
For some reason, Kohli left his ground and charged through for a bye. Even as Rahane turned him back, Ramdin missed a lob at the stumps by the narrowest of margins. So far down the track had Kohli advanced that Bravo had a second bite at the cherry on his follow through, but he too failed to hit the stumps as the Wankhede gasped in disbelief and relief. Then 1, Kohli could have been run out next ball too, but Ramdin failed to collect a throw from long-leg with the batsman struggling to make his ground.
To reprieve a batsman of Kohli’s calibre three times in two deliveries was asking for trouble, and Kohli doled it out in considerable measure.
It was an innings of two parts – the first anxious and edgy as he tried to hit the ball too hard and ended up sacrificing shape and timing. Having somewhat laboured to 19 off 16, Kohli turned a new leaf when he whipped a Bravo full toss to square-leg. It sent off an inexorable chain of events as West Indies lived to rue the let-offs.
The fluency that had deserted him came flooding back as Kohli revisited the unbeaten 82 against Australia in Mohali three nights back. Like on that occasion, he was again brilliant between the wickets in the sapping Mumbai humidity with a willing Dhoni for company. There were just six dot balls in Kohli’s 47-ball masterpiece; there were also 19 singles and 10 hard-run twos, a tribute to the young man’s fitness and his ability to immediately disregard obvious physical discomfort.
As he went deeper and deeper into his innings, Kohli batted with majestic pomp, sinewy wrists and strong forearms complementing dancing feet and electric shoes. He and Dhoni ran West Indies ragged during India’s third consecutive stand of 60 in the innings on inarguably the best batting surface it had encountered in the tournament.
he tone had been set by the reunited Rohit and Rahane, who encountered three tidy early overs before Rohit decided enough was enough. Sulieman Benn was taken for two boundaries, but the big push came in the final over of the Power Play, Russell smashed over the square-leg fence off a waist-high full toss and the resultant free-hit deposited into the sightscreen behind the bowler. When Samuel Badree trapped Rohit in front, India had 62 on the board, on which Rahane and Kohli especially built in excellent fashion.
Rahane did his job but was just starting to overstay his welcome – 40 off 35 with time running out – when he pulled Russell to deep midwicket, the second fiddle in a stand of 66. Even his Mumbai home crowd celebrated the event with gusto, their decibel levels reaching a crescendo as Dhoni promoted himself to No. 4.
The skipper was happy to bask in his deputy’s glory, though he more than held his own with his wonderful scampers between the stumps in a frenetic final burst that fetched 64 off just 27 deliveries. The innings ended in a blaze of momentum and adrenaline, which boiled over when Bumrah knocked Gayle’s off-pole out. But that was as good it got for India.