A Virat Kohli masterclass ensured hosts India completed a thrilling run-chase against Australia on Sunday to qualify for the World Twenty20 semi-finals at their opponents’ expense.
Shane Watson, who had already announced his decision to retire from international cricket at the end of this tournament, did his best to inspire Australia in Mohali, returning 2-23 from four overs and taking a superb catch to dismiss Yuvraj Singh as India stumbled in pursuit of 161.
However, Kohli was always likely to prove the key figure and the number three accelerated in devastating fashion over the closing overs to finish unbeaten on 82 from 51 balls and secure a six-wicket victory.
Thirty-nine runs were needed off the last three overs after Watson completed his allocation, but Kohli’s stunning strokeplay – which brought seven boundaries from the next 11 deliveries he faced – ensured India triumphed with five balls to spare.
Watson has therefore represented Australia for the last time, while the pre-tournament favourites will face West Indies in Mumbai on Thursday for the right to face New Zealand or England in next weekend’s final.
Australia elected to bat and posted 160-6 on the back of useful contributions from Usman Khawaja (26 off 16 balls), Aaron Finch (43 off 34) and Glenn Maxwell (31 off 28).
However, India could be pleased with their efforts in the field after giving up 53 in the first four overs, with Ashish Nehra (1-20 from four overs), Yuvraj (1-19 from three) and Ravindra Jadeja (0-20 from three) particularly economical.
Peter Nevill struck the last two balls of the innings for four and six respectively to boost Australia’s tally and India were in trouble at 49-3 in the eighth over when Watson followed up Nathan Coulter-Nile’s dismissal of Shikhar Dhawan (13) with the wickets of Rohit Sharma (12) and Suresh Raina (10).
Watson then pulled off a leaping take at cover to account for Yuvraj, clearly hampered by an ankle injury on his way to 21 from 18 balls.
Yet Australia could not shift Kohli, who moved past 50 with minimal fuss before unleashing a stunning stream of boundaries off James Faulkner and Coulter-Nile prior to India skipper MS Dhoni striking the winning runs at the start of the final over.