MELBOURNE: A delightful, breathless assault from Suryakumar Yadav (61 not out off 25 balls; 6×4, 4×6) was the highlight of India’s 71-run decimation of Zimbabwe at the ‘G’ on Sunday night.
AS IT HAPPENED
KL Rahul too chipped in with a second consecutive half-century before the bowlers made quick work of the opposition line-up to hammer home the point that there would be no change in the status quo when India took the field. The day had started, after all, with the Netherlands upsetting South Africa to upend all predictions in Group 2, but a brutally dominating performance ensured that India ended as group toppers. They will now play England in the second semifinal at the Adelaide Oval next Thursday.
Surya’s repertoire of audacious strokeplay, all powerful wrists and maddening angles even as he chases perfection at the point of contact, was on view as India, batting first, exploded to 186/5 in 20 overs after another sedate start. The scoops, the sweeps, the pick-up shots, the lofted drives all melted into one in a maverick display of T20 batting genius. Before Suryakumar, the possibility of routinely pulling off such shots, with such immaculate placement, was perhaps only in the realm of imagination.
Zimbabwe’s hapless bowlers watched even as their slower ones and cutters disappeared into the stands. Surya ended with a strike rate of 244 and the fourth fastest 50 (off 23 balls) for India in T20 World Cups. India scored 79 off the last five overs, with ‘SKY’ scoring his last 56 runs off 19 balls. This was Suryakumar’s sixth innings of 50-plus at a strike rate of 200 or above in T20Is, making him, of course, the first Indian to achieve the feat. It was as if Suryakumar brought a fly swatter, not a bat, to brush the bowlers aside. By the end of 15 overs, India were plodding along at 7. 13, with Suryakumar and Hardik feeling their way in the middle.
The return of Blessing Muzarabani’s pace, though, woke up ‘SKY’ as he unfurled his full range of strokes: second ball of the 16th, an ugly thick edge over the ’keeper. Not pretty but a boundary. Next ball, driven on the up to beat mid-off. Another four. Hardik too came into his own and the over yielded 18 runs.
Surya’s onslaught picked up more steam in the 17th over, bowled by the left-armer Richard Ngarava: a wide full toss guided over the third man fence. Third ball, a six, the pick-up shot this time over backward square.
Next over, a wide slow off-cutter from Tendai Chatara scooped over short fine, and then a powerful hit over extra cover for six to close out the over. Twelve off the 17th, 15 off the 18th. The next over, Muzarabani bowls a slow yorker at SKY’s legs, only to see the batter make room and use those magical wrists to hammer it straight down.
Two sixes and a four followed in the 20th, the last six, off the last ball from Ngarava, a wide yorker unbelievably played over his shoulder, ‘SKY’ nearly tumbling over but ensuring that everything was perfect at the point of contact.
The Surya magic bewitched Zimbabwe. Batting hasn’t been their strong suit in this tournament and when Bhuvneshwar got Madhevere first ball with an away swinger, the writing was on the wall. By the end of the Powerplay Zimbabwe were 28/3 and by the 9th over, they were 47-5. Any semblance of a contest was effectively over.
Only Sikandar Raza yet again played lone ranger with a 24-ball 34 as Zimbabwe reached 115 before losing all their wickets in 17.2 overs. This was a good workout for India ahead of the knockouts and the win will keep them in a good headspace ahead of the England game.
In the end, it was Suryakumar’s pyrotechnics, perfectly suited to the colour and noise of T20s, that won the day for the 82,507 in attendance at the ‘G’.
T20 WC: ‘SKY’ stars as India beat Zimbabwe to set up England semi-final