India qualified for the World Twenty20 semifinals and knocked out Australia after Virat Kohli smashed an unbeaten 82 in their do-or-die showdown in Mohali on Sunday.
Kohli’s powerful 51-ball knock propelled India to a six-wicket victory, as they successfully chased down Australia’s 160-6 to keep their dreams alive of becoming the first nation to win two World T20 titles.
India, who won the inaugural tournament in 2007, now face the West Indies in the semi-finals in Mumbai on Thursday after finishing second in the Super 10 group stage.
But Australia’s hopes of winning their first ever World T20 trophy are once again in tatters, with the top-ranked Test side now bowing out of the tournament.
New Zealand play England in the other semi-final on Wednesday in New Delhi.
Chasing Australia’s challenging total, India had looked down and out at 94-4 but Kohli and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (18 not out) put on 67 runs to take the team to the finish line.
The 27-year-old Kohli planned his knock to perfection, mixing caution with aggression to smash two sixes and nine fours in a pressure-cooker atmosphere at the packed Punjab Cricket Association ground.
Dhoni, who effected three dismissals, hit the winning four with five balls to spare to trigger wild celebrations in the stands.
Shane Watson’s international career ended in disappointment although the retiring all-rounder did well to grab two key wickets and a spectacular running catch.
India suffered early setbacks in their chase, with openers Shikhar Dhawan (13) and Rohit Sharma (12) cooling their heels in the dressing room with 37 runs on the board.
Watson proved his worth with the ball, accounting for Dhawan and Suresh Raina in consecutive overs.
Yuvraj Singh, who had to get his ankle strapped after pulling a muscle, made a valiant 21.
Earlier, opener Aaron Finch shared 54 runs for the opening wicket with Usman Khawaja to give Australia a flying start after Steven Smith won the toss and elected to bat.
Khawaja, enjoying a purple patch with the bat, smashed rookie fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah for four boundaries in the second over of the innings.
Finch matched his opening partner in aggression, carting off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin for two sixes on the trot as the Aussies raced to 50 runs inside just four overs.
The early onslaught stunned the Indian crowd, which only came to life when Ashish Nehra got rid of the dangerous Khawaja for 26 off 16 balls.
Ashwin gave India the second breakthrough by having David Warner stumped, and in the process he became the first Indian and 12th player in the world to grab 50 wickets in T20 internationals.
Part-time bowler Yuvraj got rid of Smith for two, before Hardik Pandya dismissed Finch to reduce Australia to 100-4.
Bumrah clipped the stumps of Glenn Maxwell who made 31 off 28 balls, capping a fine turnaround for the bowler after he was whacked for 17 runs in his first over.
Watson remained not out on 18 while Peter Nevill took 10 runs from the final two balls.
Nehra was the standout bowler for India, giving away 20 runs while picking the key wicket of Khawaja.
Feature image source: AFP