Rohit power-hits India to big win against Australia and into T20 World Cup semi-finals

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Mitchell Starc eventually got his revenge — a yorker-length delivery that took the inside edge and disturbed the timber. In the context of the game, though, it felt like way too little, way too late. By the time Rohit Sharma was dismissed for a 41-ball 92 (7X4, 8X6), Australia’s bowlers looked somewhat demoralised. To borrow a term from football, they were ‘gegenpressed’. From the fans’ perspective, they were entertained by the best white-ball batting of the summer.

Rohit had decimated Starc early into India’s innings, via four sixes and a four in an over. It was the left-arm pacer’s most expensive over in T20Is, and Rohit did it after Virat Kohli was out for a five-ball duck. The latter was caught off guard by a Josh Hazlewood bouncer and was caught at deepish mid-wicket by Tim David. The dismissal took Kohli’s tournament tally to 66 runs at 11.00, with a strike-rate of 100. He is clogging up the top order, but India have bitten the bullet.

The T20 World Cup Super Eights fixture between India and Australia at Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in Gros Islet on Monday, however, was all about the India captain. November 19, 2023 – the day of the 50-over World Cup final – probably was still fresh in his mind and he had a score to settle. His knock ensured India reached 205/5 after losing the toss. The bowlers then restricted Australia to 181/7, helping the team secure a 24-run victory.

India stormed to the semi-finals and will face England in Guyana on Thursday. Australia stay on the precipice. If Afghanistan beat Bangladesh, the men from Down Under will return home. At least they went past 176 to stay ahead of Afghanistan’s net run-rate.

Rohit had the leeway to slow down a bit as he got into the 90s. A T20 World Cup hundred was in sight. But he still tried to play a pick-up shot against a yorker rather than offering deadpan defence. He was the embodiment of the team’s changed philosophy. Personal milestones don’t matter anymore and the skipper is at the forefront of the change. His selfless attitude has rubbed off on his teammates and India are revelling in it.

The pitch was a bit soft to start with, until the mid-day sun dried out the surface. Still, it wasn’t exactly a highway. Suryakumar Yadav used his 360-degree range to score 31 off 16 balls. Others took time to settle down. At times, it felt like Rohit was batting on a different deck. A strong breeze was blowing across the ground. Rohit hit the ball with the wind and into the wind. In the process, he became the all-time leading run-scorer in T20Is, surpassing Babar Azam. He also became the first man to hit 200 sixes in T20Is.

“Felt like a dream, he (Rohit) batted beautifully,” Surya told the host broadcaster during the innings break. “We talked about what brand we want to play and he showed us the way.”

India were 52/1 after five overs and Rohit was batting on 50 off 19 balls. They reached hundred in the ninth over and Rohit was on 78 off 31 balls. Such was his impact on the day.

Australia lost David Warner early in their chase, but counter-attacked through an 81-run (48 balls) second wicket partnership between Travis Head and Mitchell Marsh. India needed some inspiration in the field and Axar Patel provided that with a stunning one-handed catch at deep square-leg to dismiss Marsh (37, 28 balls) off Kuldeep Yadav.

Glenn Maxwell came and brought out the reverse-sweep to neuter Ravindra Jadeja. Rohit didn’t go on the defensive. He kept a slip, wanting the Aussies to err on the side of aggression. Maxwell jumped out of his crease to send Kuldeep over wide long-on, but the latter foxed him with a googly that turned big. It was excellent bowling. It was superb captaincy.

In a high-scoring game, Kuldeep returned with 2/24 from his four overs. Axar gave away just 21 runs in his three overs and took the wicket of Marcus Stoinis. Arshdeep Singh bagged three wickets (3/37), but Jasprit Bumrah accounted for arguably the most important scalp.

Head was maintaining his habit of scoring runs against India and after 16 overs, the equation read; 58 off 24 balls. Australia were still in the game. But Bumrah bowled a brilliant slower delivery to dismiss the opener. Head’s 43-ball 76 was a fine effort, but unlike the World Cup final last year, it wasn’t a match-winning one.

Bumrah returned with 1/29 from four overs, a bit expensive by his standards. Tongue firmly in cheek.