India made absolutely sure of their place in the World Cup semi-final with a comprehensive defeat of Zimbabwe at the MCG in Melbourne. They can now look forward to a semi-final meeting with England on Thursday.
Whilst not everything has been plain sailing to this point, India may consider they will never have a better chance to win the trophy for the first time since 2007.
India won the toss and decided to bat first, and, despite another below par score from their captain Rohit Sharma, were going well with KL Rahul and Virat Kohli together in the middle. Rahul made 51, although Kohli could not find the form that has made him the leading run scorer in the competition and had to settle for just 26 on the day.
The innings lost its way when three quick wickets fell, but Suryakumar Yadav got things back on track by making an unbeaten 61 off just 25 balls, including 4 sixes and 6 fours, and his efforts helped his side post 186/5 from their 20 overs.
That proved far too good for a Zimbabwe side that saw their first two wickets fall with just two on the board inside the first ten balls.
They had brief hopes when all-rounder Sikandar Raza – one man from their team who can go home with his head held high and Ryan Burl put on 60 for the sixth wicket. But when Ravichandran Ashwin bowled Burl for 35, any last hope was distinguished and it was just a matter of time after that.
Zimbabwe’s interest in the tournament was finally ended when Axar Patel had Tendai Chatara caught and bowled in the 18th over. They were all out for 115, meaning that India had won by 71 runs.
Kohli still tops the run charts but Yadav has moved into third place behind Max O’Dowd of the Netherlands who has played three games more, and whose tournament is now over.
South Africa blow it
South Africa had been one of the form teams of the competition, so far, thrashing New Zealand in a warm-up game, and then winning two out of their three games in the Super 12 stage, and having much the better of the third.
Given that one of those wins had been against India, some were beginning to consider them as possible tournament winners, even if they did suffer a setback against Pakistan.
They were widely expected to book their semi-final by beating the Netherlands, but they could not cope with the pressure of chasing 159 to win, losing by 13 runs in the end.
This has already been a World Cup of upsets – Namibia beating Sri Lanka, and Ireland beating the West Indies and Pakistan. This was right up there with them.
When they arrive back in South Africa, there is bound to be a serious inquest as to how the side managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Pakistan sneak in
Those Pakistan fans who arrived early in Adelaide for their match against Bangladesh were cheering the Dutch on by the end, and soon they would have even more to celebrate. Their team’s five-wicket victory meant that they had pipped the South Africans to the second semi-final place. Given that they had lost their first two matches in the competition – to India and Zimbabwe respectively – that marks some recovery.
They may feel this is poetic justice after they lost to both India and Zimbabwe in dramatic fashion.
The final group table
Those final results meant that India topped the group, ahead of Pakistan. South Africa had to settle for third place, ahead of the Netherlands and Bangladesh, with Zimbabwe propping up the rest.
The hosts and pre-tournament favourites Australia miss out completely after what was a lacklustre defence of the title that they won last November.
What happens next
New Zealand will play Pakistan in the first semi-final in Sydney, on Wednesday November 9th. The next day it will be the turn of India to face England in the other semi-final. The final will be next Sunday at the MCG in Melbourne, and, at this stage it remains too close to call to decide who might be involved in that match.
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