Rohit walks the walk as India qualify for semifinals with win over Australia

PTI, Jun 25, 2024, 7:58 AM IST

Credit: X / @BCCI

Gros Islet (Saint Lucia): Skipper Rohit Sharma played an innings to remember as India marched into the semifinals of the T20 World Cup with a 24-run win over Australia in their last Super Eights fixture here on Monday.

Rohit combined brute force with elegance in his 92 off 41 balls as India amassed 205 for five after Australia opted to bowl on a batting beauty. In reply, Australia ended at 181 for seven.

Staring at an early exit from the competition, Australia showed their familiar fighting spirit in the run chase via skipper Mitchell Marsh (37 off 28), who was back among the runs, and India’s nemesis Travis Head (76 off 43), who played a blinder in the ODI World Cup final last year.

The trio of Kuldeep Yadav (2/24), Jasprit Bumrah (1/29) and Arshdeep Singh (3/37) eventually kept the Australians at bay. India finished as group toppers.

After their second loss in three games, Australia have left their fate in the hands of Afghanistan who take on Bangladesh later on Monday and are also in running for the second semifinal spot from Group 1.

India’s third win in as many games in Super Eights gave them a date with defending champions England in the second semifinal in Guyana on Thursday.

Australia, as expected, showed plenty of fight in the chase before fizzling out in the death overs.

The highlight of the 86-run partnership between Head and Marsh was their exemplary ball-striking ability.

While Marsh enthralled with short-arm pulls into the stands, Head targeted the straight boundary. The southpaw smoked Hardik Pandya for a flat six down the ground, reminiscent of his ruthlessness in Ahmedabad on the ill-fated night of November 19.

Amid the high-quality hitting from Marsh and Head, Kuldeep’s bowling stood out. One of his wickets, though, was purely down to the brilliance of Axar Patel who took a one-handed stunner on the jump at deep square leg to send back Marsh.

With 65 needed off 30 balls and Head in the middle, the match hung in balance before MVP Jasprit Bumrah returned to remove the opener with a slower ball and Australia could not press on thereafter.

Earlier, on the best batting surface of the tournament, Australia put India in to bat and Rohit made the most of the conditions with a sublime knock comprising seven fours and eights sixes including a recording-extending 200th in the format.

It was the start of something special when Rohit flicked Mitchell Starc for four in the first over of the game.

Virat Kohli (0) at the other end mistimed a pull off Josh Hazlewood in the following over to be caught in the deep.

Walking the talk once again, Rohit never took the foot off the pedal and went hammer and tongs against Starc, whose second over yielded as many as 29 runs, his most expensive in the format.

The first two sixes in the over came via delightful aerial drives over extra cover before he smashed one in the cow corner region.

The fourth maximum of the over came through a mishit that went all the way behind the stumps.

Rohit did the bulk of the damage in his 87-run stand with number three Rishabh Pant (15 off 14), who welcomed leg-spinner Adam Zampa into the attack with a six over long-on. Australia’s trump card went wicket-less.

Another memorable shot of Rohit’s innings was the down-on-one-knee six over deep mid-wicket off Pat Cummins in the latter’s opening over.

Credit must go to India for not allowing any bowler to settle into a rhythm. Rohit brought up his fifty at end of the fifth over with a single and that was also the fastest of the tournament.

Rohit unleashed a six over extra cover when Marcus Stoinis came into the attack in the eighth over.

Such was the authority of Rohit’s innings that he could select his spot against all the bowlers of repute.

It could have been a well-deserved 100 but Starc came back to remove the India skipper with a yorker.

Suryakumar Yadav (31 off 15), Hardik Pandya (27 not out off 17) and Shivam Dube (28 off 22) also played their part but India could not make the most of the last five overs, scoring only 43 runs for the loss of one wicket.

Even as his colleagues leaked runs, Hazlewood seemed to be bowling on a different pitch, conceding only 14 runs while taking one wicket in his four overs.

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