NEW ZEALAND remain the only unbeaten team in the World Twenty20 cup in India and look to continue their run of wins against England in the first semi-final on Wednesday.
Favourites and hosts India booked their spot in the last four after a batting masterclass from Virat Kohli in what was essentially a quarter-final match against Australia. India will now travel to Mumbai to play West Indies who, despite a shock defeat to underdogs Afghanistan, topped their group in the Super 10s.
Due to the bizarre structure of this world cup competition, the tournament only truly got going when hosts India met New Zealand in Nagpur on March 15th. Bangladesh comfortably negotiated the qualifying round after fairly comfortable wins over associates Netherlands and Oman, as expected. Meanwhile, the entertaining Afghans showcased their improved class since Pakistan legend Inzamam-ul-Haq took over as coach to easily beat Zimbabwe and qualify for the Super 10s themselves. If nothing else, the entire Group Stage qualifying process proved that the associate nations not only need to but deserve to play more matches against the test playing sides.
The first match of the Super 10s saw the tournament hosts play New Zealand. Black Caps captain Kane Williamson surprised everyone at the toss as he confirmed stalwart fast bowlers Tim Southee and Trent Boult weren’t playing. New Zealand proceeded to limp to a low 126-7 in their 20 overs thanks predominantly to a mature, anchoring innings of 34 from Corey Anderson on a slow, turning pitch in Nagpur. Williamson’s decision to exclude Southee and Boult was proved to be more than justified as spinners Nathan McCullum (2-15), Mitchel Santner (4-11) and Ish Sodhi (3-18) gave India a lesson straight from their very own manual to spin India out for a miserly 79. New Zealand continued their good for against their fierce rivals Australia in their second match. Once again, Williamson read the conditions perfectly to include extra seamer Mitchel McClenaghen. McClenaghen went on to take match-winning figures of 3-17 as New Zealand defended 142 to win by 8 runs.
Elsewhere in Group 2, Pakistan came out on top against Bangladesh as veteran captain Shahid Afridi blasted 49 off a mere 19 balls before taking 2 wickets to lead his side to victory. India did however turn their fortunes around against Pakistan as Virat Kohli brilliantly guided his side to a comfortable 6 wicket win with a dazzling 55 not out off 37 balls. Pakistan’s hopes of making the semi-finals diminished rapidly, failing to win another match as New Zealand’s Martin Guptill smashed 80 off 46 balls and Australia’s James Faulkner took 5-28 to each lead their nations to victories over Pakistan respectively. India’s fait looked set to follow a similar path to their old rivals as Bangladesh were set to take victory over the hosts requiring 2 runs for victory with 3 balls remaining. However, 22-year-old bowler Hardik Pandya showed experience way beyond his years to remove both set Bangladeshi batsmen in consecutive deliveries before ice-cool Indian captain MS Dhoni kept his nerve to run Mustafizur Rahman out on the final delivery. The dramatic run-out gave India a 1 run win and set up what was essentially a quarter-final against Australia. Bangladesh ended the Super 10s winless despite a Mustafizur 5-for against New Zealand as they lost comfortably by 75 runs. Once again a Kohli (82* off 51) masterclass guided his team to victory over Australia in Mohali to join New Zealand in the semis and finish second in Group 2.
Meanwhile, West Indies’ all-round performance with both bat and ball ensured they topped Group 1 despite a final shock defeat to Afghanistan. Chris Gayle proved he’s still one of the best in the business to smash his second T20i hundred (100* off 48) against a young England to chase 183 to win their opening game. West Indies followed the win up with victory over defending champions Sri Lanka as Andre Fletcher hit 84* (64 balls) after the impressive Samuel Badree had taken 3-12 to reduce Sri Lanka to only 122-9 before beating the inconsistent South Africa in a nail biter in Nagpur, confirming their place in the semis. After their first loss to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan showed they can hold themselves against the big boys with honourable defeats to England and South Africa respectively. Wicket-keeper batsman Mohammad Shahzad gave the Proteas a scare blitzing a quick-fire 44 (19 balls) before Chris Morris confirmed victory for South Africa taking 4-27. Afghanistan looked destined to beat a test playing nation for the first time in the next match as they reduced England to 57-6 inside the first 10 overs. Unfortunately for them, England’s long batting line up pushed them to 142 which proved a step too far once again. Afghanistan will leave India smiling however as they did beat West Indies by 6 runs to gain their biggest scalp in their short history thanks to a very impressive all-round bowling performance to defend a low target of 123.
With West Indies claiming a spot in the semis early on and Afghanistan unable to grab a win, the second semi-final berth was left for Sri Lanka, England and South Africa to fight for. In what has to be the match of the tournament so far, England remarkably managed to chase a record-breaking 230 for victory over South Africa in Mumbai to put one foot in the semis as that man Joe Root (83 from 44) once again led England to victory. With South Africa losing to West Indies, England had to beat Sri Lanka on Saturday to confirm their place in the semis or it would be left to Sri Lanka and South Africa to battle it out on Monday. In yet another thriller, Jos Buttler (66* from 37) led England to 171 before Chris Jordan (4-28) and David Willey (2-26) reduced Sri Lanka to 15-4. Despite an admirable effort from a hobbling Angelo Mathews (73* from 54), England ended 10 runs to the good. The final Group 1 match between South Africa and Sri Lanka now nothing more than a dead rubber as England and West Indies claim the two semi-final spots.
After a thrilling Super 10s, New Zealand will play England in Delhi before hosts India face West Indies in Mumbai for spots in the final. It must be said that this has been one of the most varied world cup tournaments so far as certain pitches accustomed to trial by spin whilst others showcasing pure batting firepower as the winning formula. The team that lifts the trophy on Sunday will surely be the team that manages to adapt to the conditions the best.
The women’s edition has closely followed the path of the men’s. New Zealand remain unbeaten and have topped Group A after comfortable victories over Sri Lanka, Ireland, Australia and South Africa captain Suzie Bates leading from the front having top scored in three of their matches. England also remain unbeaten and top Group B where they have showcased their vast experience to beat India and West Indies in thrillers by hanging on to win by 2 wickets and 1 wicket respectively. West Indies hung on to close victories over India and Pakistan themselves to make three of the semi-finalists from both editions of the tournament the same nations. Australia make up the final spot in the semis for the women with all-round performances against everyone bar New Zealand. The women’s semi-finals will take place directly before the men’s on the same grounds with New Zealand up against West Indies on Wednesday in Delhi and old rivals Australia against England in Mumbai on Thursday.
Featured image: IBI Times