It’s been an unbelievable Sunday for the cricketing world! The T20 World Cup has found its 4 semi-finalists in India, Pakistan, New Zealand and England but they were finalized only after a huge dose of high drama. India qualified in the Top Four even before they went into their last match against Zimbabwe courtesy of the continuing tradition by Proteas to choke in the pressure matches. They were stunned by the Netherlands which allowed India to play their top game without any pressure – and the Men in Blue simply demolished Zimbabwe by 71 runs, outplaying the African side in all departments of the game. The easy win enabled India to top their Group and enter the Semi-finals where they will meet England in Adelaide on Thursday.
India batted first and got off to a decent start but skipper Rohit Sharma failed once again and Indian fans now hope that he will perform at his best in the crucial knock-out games. In contrast, KL Rahul was at his scintillating best and knocked up a fine fifty for the second match in a row. But it was Surya Kumar Yadav who stole the limelight yet again. He not only took India’s total to above par but became the highest run scorer in the format this year. He has now scored over a thousand runs in 2022. His partnership with Pandya made sure that India could set a stiff 187-run target for Zimbabwe.
India’s new ball bowlers were outstanding as the Zimbabweans came out for the tough chase. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Arshdeep Singh both controlled the swing very well and virtually bamboozled the Zimbabwe batsmen. The result was a total capitulation as Zimbabwe were soon reduced to 28 for 3 in the powerplay and then 36 for 5 in the next couple of overs as the experienced Mohammed Shami and Hardik too picked up vital wickets. Some resistance by Sikandar Raza and Ryan Burl delayed the inevitable but Indian bowlers closed the game well before the scheduled 20 overs and Team India verily strolled into the semi-finals.
While the India game went on expected lines, it was the start of the day that shocked cricket fans all around the world. South Africa were firm favourites to win but choked at vital stages. Chasing 159 for victory, South Africa faltered to end on 145-8 with Dutch fast bowler Brandon Glover bowling a fine spell of 3-9 in two overs. Ultimately, the Netherlands sent the Proteas crashing out of the World Cup with a shocking 13-run victory in Adelaide which also propelled India into the semi-finals.
The shocker by the Dutch turned the Pakistan-Bangladesh clash into a knock-out game. As Bangladesh kept losing wickets regularly and set just a modest target of 128, Pakistan won the contest with 5 wickets to spare. Though they displayed nerves and some jitters, but with Shaheen Afridi finding peak form and Shadab Khan performing at his best, Pakistan now looks like a truly formidable side. Their bowling attack is rated extremely dangerous and is probably the best among all teams and if their batting starts clicking, Pakistan will take some beating in the knockout stage.
With the triple-header on Sunday, the Super 12 phase of the T20 World Cup came to a dramatic close. South Africa’s shock loss to Netherlands not only reconfirmed their reputation as the chokers of the cricket world but also enabled Pakistan to join India in the last-four stage. With New Zealand and England having already sealed their qualification after Saturday’s Group 1 matches, the Semi-Final lineup was finally confirmed after two weeks of thrilling encounters, stunning upsets and high-voltage action.
In the first Semi-Final, Pakistan will clash with New Zealand, the Runners Up of the last T20 World Cup, at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 9th November. Having topped Group 2 after winning four of its five matches, India will play England on 10th November at the Adelaide Oval in Semi-Final 2.
With the arch-rivals from the subcontinent both clinching semi-final spots, the dream of an India vs Pakistan final remains very much alive at the T20 World Cup. However, England and New Zealand will surely have different ideas. The Kiwis and the England team both have extremely balanced sides and have played with panache and consistency in getting to the semi-finals from their group which was much tougher than the India-Pakistan group. As such, they are quite capable of winning their respective contests against the South Asian sides.
However, if the mercurial and uber-talented powerhouses from the subcontinent can produce their best, the dream final between India and Pakistan seems a distinct and alluring possibility now. Who will finally get to the World Cup finals is, of course, rather uncertain. But what is quite certain is that Super Sunday has set up two tantalising semi-finals that are bound to thrill cricket fans and connoisseurs alike!