Rohit and spinners take India to T20 World Cup final

India reach their third T20 World Cup final. (PC:

Jos Buttler shimmied down the track and hit Arshdeep Singh over mid-off for a four. The England captain moved in his crease next ball, forced Arshdeep to bowl on his pads and collected another boundary. A batter who is ready to give up his stumps creates more scoring opportunities on a slow pitch. Arshdeep’s rhythm, meanwhile, was upset. He bowled short and got hammered again.

India weren’t defending a very big total and Rohit Sharma had to act. He couldn’t have allowed England to run away with the game in the Powerplay. The India captain brought Axar Patel into the attack.

The pitch at the Guyana National Stadium was playing slow and low. The ball was turning. Axar bowled slower, angling it into the batter from around the wicket. Buttler went for a reverse-sweep, but toe-ended the delivery straight up into the air for Rishabh Pant to take an easy catch. India badly needed the breakthrough.

All the while, Phil Salt was a spectator at the other end. But given his hitting prowess, India wanted to see his back as well. Jasprit Bumrah, who else, came up with a slower off-cutter to castle the opener.

England, the defending champions, suddenly became jittery. Jonny Bairstow attempted a wild hack against an Axar delivery that came in with the arm and also kept low. Bairstow missed the delivery and he was bowled. Axar then removed Moeen Ali before Kuldeep Yadav accounted for Sam Curran. England slumped to 49/5, chasing 172 for victory. The game was done and dusted. India were through to the final. They won by 68 runs.

Axar bowled a game-changing spell in the Powerplay. His 3/23 in four overs was worth its weight in gold. In terms of utility, he is almost unmatched in this team.

“I knew the wicket was assisting and didn’t try too many things,” said the left-arm spinner after collecting the Player of the Match award.

Kuldeep, the master of drift, was the ruler of the middle-overs, returning with 3/19 from his four overs. Bumrah picked up a couple. India’s fielding, too, was top class. Suryakumar Yadav’s backhand flick to run Adil Rashid out was special.

Earlier, England won the toss and sent India in. Rain played a part in Buttler’s decision and it was a stop-start game. But the England skipper misread the pitch.

Virat Kohli, yet again, fell for a single-digit score. But Rohit, an early reprieve notwithstanding, scored a brilliant half-century (57, 39 balls). He was at his marauding best against Australia in St Lucia. Given the degree of difficulty in Guyana, it was an even better effort. Also, it was a knockout game that didn’t offer a second chance.

Both Surya and Hardik Pandya contributed well, making 47 (36 balls) and 23 (13 balls), respectively. Towards the end, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar took India to 171/7, about 20 runs above-par on a tricky surface.

Two years ago, in the semi-final of the 2022 T20 World Cup in Adelaide, India had posted 168/6 against England on a batting beauty. Buttler and Alex Hales decimated them in that game. On Thursday, in tough conditions, India posted a match-winning total before bundling out England for 103. At Providence, Adelaide was avenged.