Knock out games are never easy in any sports. While they bring delight to the winning side, the disappointment for losers is always in equal measure. At Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur on April 4, South Africa elected to bat after winning the toss, just as Sri Lanka had done yesterday. If one were to make an honest appraisal of South Africa’s innings, they actually did very well. In fact, much better than what the Lankans had done yesterday. 172 is an extremely challenging score in the conditions that have prevailed on Bangla pitches over the fortnight. Though India won the semifinal, it will be wrong to brand the victory as a drubbing of South Africa, howsoever easy it turned out in the end. One must give due credit to the courageous South African batsmen, who thwarted the Indian bowling attack, and despite early losses, didn’t surrender meekly. The captain du Plessis led from front and showed how one should play under pressure. Until this match, Amit Mishra had proved to be a dangerous bowler. And to be honest, he didn’t bowl badly today but du Plessis took him squarely and fearlessly and belted him when he pleased, presumably to tell his fellow batsmen that don’t let Mishra indulge with your batting. Though Quinton de Kock went out cheaply, every South African batsman added something to the score. In T20 format, there is not much time for long-range planning. It is now or never. And Faf du Plessis showed the importance of upsetting the bowlers’ rhythm in whatever manner, you can instantly devise.
Plessis had come back after serving one-match suspension and walked to the crease after the fall of de Kock’s wicket. With Hashim Amla, he helped in adding 35 off 4.3 overs. After Amla left, du Plessis continued with Duminy and the two of them added 71 runs in the next 8.4 overs, before du Plessis was unfortunately clean-bowled. The ball was not in line with the wickets, but it ricocheted to the stumps after striking his pads. But the South African batsmen didn’t give up. With Duminy still out there, everyone played his part. Duminy remained not out on 45 off 40 balls; de Villiers scored 10 runs off 8 balls and Miller made 23 off 12. Of the Indian bowlers, Ravichandran Ashwin was the pick of the lot. Ashwin conceded runs but he claimed 3 out of the 4 wickets that fell. South Africans have been unable to break the 14-year jinx of winning in the knockout phase of an ICC tournament. The historical fact that South Africa has never lost a T20 match after making 170+ runs, didn’t work in their favor either.
When India came on, they had a pretty stiff target facing them. Moreover it is never easy to score 9 runs every over under floodlights and dew. But the batsmen didn’t lack determination, as the openers put on an impressive 39 in 3.5 overs. Rohit Sharma played freely and scored 24 off 13 balls, before he fell as the first wicket. After Sharma, Kohli joined Ajinkya Rahane and the two of them added another 38, before Rahane also got out. From this point onwards, Kohli and Yuvraj produced an invaluable 56-run partnership for the third wicket in 6.3 overs. Yuvraj’s dismissal brought Suresh Raina to join Kohli and the two of them stepped up the run-rate. Their 10-ball partnership yielded 34 runs and made things easy for India in the end. But it was the great performance from Virat Kohli, which truly made the big difference. Kohli made 72 off just 44 balls with 5 fours and 2 sixes and shouldered the entire responsibility of seeing India through to the last game of the ICC T20 World Cup.
For the South Africans, today was just like yesterday was for the West Indies. The South African women cricketers lost the semifinal against England, before the start of the men’s game. But the South African women had themselves to blame for the utterly poor display of batting, after having been sent in to bat by England. They could only muster 101 all out in 19.5 overs with 5 run-outs. With such a score, they couldn’t have hoped for any further progress in the tournament. The English women played with class and reached the victory target of 102 in just under an hour for the loss of Charlotte Edwards’ wicket in 16.5 overs. Every English woman contributed a good score, but Anya Shrubsole won the player of the match award for taking 2 wickets off 12 runs in 4 overs.