On Sunday morning, India and Pakistan beat South Africa by 13 runs in Adelaide on a tumultuous afternoon, waking up to the news of the Netherlands bowing out of the tournament. This was good news for both the countries. The defeat meant India qualified for the semi-finals hours before their last group game against Zimbabwe. This also means that the fate of Pakistan was in his hands, all he had to do was defeat Bangladesh.
They beat home by five wickets. But who would have thought that teams would have to wait till the last day of Super 12 to reach the semi-finals. But it has been that kind of tournament, unpredictable and uncertain, the most exciting T20 World Cup in recent times, filled with shocking defeats, close finishes and some high-class cricketing prowess.
The Zimbabwe game, although watched by a sold-out MCG crowd, was only a formality. Easing the pressure of a winning game, he crushed Zimbabwe by 71 runs, without enduring tense moments, and churned out his most clinical performance of the tournament. Moments before the game, Pakistan ensured they beat Bangladesh by five wickets to make it to the last four. The last day of Super 12 was going to be full of tension and suspense for both India and Pakistan. It turned out to be anti-climatic.
The two countries, billed as outright favorites to win the tournament with neither, have gone from strength to strength. Without Jasprit Bumrah, India’s fast bowling firm would have been considered less dangerous. But Arshdeep Singh’s quartet, Bhuvneshwar KumarHardik Pandya and Mohammed ShamiHas shown both bark and cutting, steel and skill. Virat Kohli regained its royal touch; KL Rahul was back in form; Rohit Sharma There are signs of getting closer to your best.
But the heartthrob of this batting line-up is Suryakumar Yadav. With every game, he seems to redefine the boundaries of batting in this format, elevating T20 batting to a true art form, a pinnacle that most people can enjoy from afar. His series of strokes in this World Cup has been truly breathtaking, be it the calm counter-attack from tough South African bowlers or the ruthless dismemberment of Zimbabwe’s bowlers.
If Enrique Nortje and Kagiso Rabada How could Mujarbani and Richard bless Nagarwa? He gave Nagarwa a masterclass in the sweep shot. One of the most humiliating shots he hit in the last over was that he shuffled outside the off-stump, bowed down, his front leg almost touching the wide-line and hit left-arm seamer Nagarwa at deep square-leg. Scooped. His batting mocks the geometry of the batting and at the same time spoils the best plans of Mice and Men.
As always, he gave impetus for a challenging total. He scored 61 runs in just 25 balls. His 225 runs in this World Cup, second only to Kohli, have come at a strike rate of 193.96. What makes him shine even more is the fact that he gets blasted in the death overs or when the team is in trouble. So much so that former India coach Ravi Shastri has seen the innings of 68 against South Africa on the fast and bouncy surface as the finest T20 innings. suffice it to say that EnglandIndia’s semi-final opponents may have already started pulling their hair out on how to get him out. As recently as last June, he bears the brunt of his anti-geometry stroke-play.
In the semifinals, India are one of the better teams to start the title tilt. There is nothing to worry about, except for the wicketkeeper’s spot, and they are slowly peaking after stuttering and stumbling in the group stage. Three of their five matches were decided till the last over. But he has shown remarkable character and restraint to capture the pivotal moments. Tournaments, often, are not won by the best teams, but by those who hold their nerves in the big moment, those who refuse to give up in the face of adversity. So has India been, and so has Pakistan to an extent.
Written off after their loss to Zimbabwe, they have returned with renewed appetite. The introduction of Mohammad Haris has rejuvenated the middle order, and more importantly, Shaheen Afridi had rediscovered his rhythm which was missing against India. He has taken seven wickets for just 36 runs in the last two matches. Along with their partners Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf and Mohammad Wasim Jr., Pakistan have a tournament-winning fast bowling group. The spin all-round pairing of Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz should not be forgotten.
Although the final and semi-finals are a week away to be played against two strong sides, fans of these subcontinental powerhouses must have already started dreaming of the dream match-up. 2007 World Cup again? India-Pakistan final at MCG. This week cannot move fast.