SKY lights up MCG, sets up easy India win

Published on Nov 06, 2022 09:13 PM IST

Zimbabwe put up feeble resistance as India win by 71 runs to top Group 2; will take on England in the semi-final

India's Suryakumar Yadav (R) and Axar Patel leaves the field after their innings during the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2022 cricket match between India and Zimbabwe at Melbourne Cricket Ground
India's Suryakumar Yadav (R) and Axar Patel leaves the field after their innings during the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2022 cricket match between India and Zimbabwe at Melbourne Cricket Ground
By, Melbourne

How do you bowl to Suryakumar Yadav? Try the wide yorker and he will open the face of the bat and run it down to third man. Bowl full and straight and he will clear the front leg and strike it over mid-off. If you were thinking bowling a middle-and leg line will cramp him, Yadav will just go down on one knee and scoop over his head. And a full toss is an open invitation for mayhem.

Perth or Melbourne, cold or warm, Yadav just doesn’t let the conditions influence his batting. In what has been a highly unpredictable T20 World Cup, he has proved one refreshing constant.

But this is a team game. On the day South Africa were knocked out of the World Cup by Netherlands, cricket was reminding everyone what a great leveller it can be. Every team had slipped on the banana peel by then, barring India. With Pakistan finishing with a better run rate after beating Bangladesh, India qualifying the moment South Africa lost, had to win against Zimbabwe to emerge Group 2 toppers.

They won by 71 runs to set up a semi-final date with England in Adelaide on Thursday. Half-centuries by KL Rahul and Yadav fired India to 186/5 before six bowlers combined to dismiss Zimbabwe for 115 and wrap up victory in 17.2 overs.

There was never any question of taking Zimbabwe lightly. So, when India won the toss, naturally they wanted to set a target. Rohit Sharma getting caught trying to pull was par for the narrative. But when Rahul fell in the 13th over after scoring his second fifty of the tournament followed by Rishabh Pant the next over (101/4 in 13.3 overs), there was a creeping doubt if Zimbabwe were catching up. Those worries were dispelled in 10 overs. Or, as Zimbabwe coach David Houghton later said: “the last five overs of India’s innings and the first five overs of our innings.”

Yadav has now hit three fifties in five matches. But this wasn’t just any fifty. If the one at Perth against South Africa was a telling effort against the best bowling side on the quickest pitch of the tournament, this was a scintillating assault on the senses. To give you a measure of Yadav’s audacious range of shots, here is the wagon wheel of his innings: two runs came behind gully, six between point and gully, seven in the covers, 12 in the long-off region, three at long-on, five behind square leg, and 26 runs were behind fine leg.

A massive six over deep extra-cover in the 18th over was possibly Yadav’s most conventional six, after he hit through the line against Tendai Chatara’s medium-pace. Before and after that Yadav gave a sensational exhibition of 360-degree hitting, shuffling across the stumps, purposely keeling over to open up the fine-leg area and messing with Zimbabwe.

There was a back of the length ball from Blessing Muzarabani that Yadav nonchalantly scooped over his head with a slight shuffle for boundary. Next ball, Muzarabani went fuller but Yadav just made space opening up his front leg. In the 17th over, two wide full tosses from Richard Ngarava were dispatched--a boundary over short third man followed by Yadav going down on his knee to ramp the ball over backward square leg for six.

Zimbabwe were trying to make sense of it, setting an off-side heavy field and asking their bowlers to keep it outside off. But Yadav was toying with them, lifting the ball over short fine-leg.

“The plan was very clear when I and Hardik were batting,” said Yadav, the Player-of-the-Match for his 61 (25b, 6x4, 4x6). “He said we should take a positive route and we started hitting the ball and never stopped.” The Melbourne Cricket Ground, packed with Indian fans, went ecstatic with every Yadav special.

Twentyone runs came off the last over, courtesy Yadav’s enterprise. First came a six that he picked off a full toss with a massive heave over backward square leg. Another swipe and this time he picked the bowler for a boundary over backward square-leg. The desperation was palpable when Ngarava ended up bowling a full toss off the last ball, allowing Yadav to scoop it again over fine-leg for six.

Rahul’s innings was the opposite of Yadav’s. There was a six over deep square-leg before Rahul went down the ground twice to bring up his fifty as he and Virat Kohli went about setting the platform for India to go really big with Yadav coming in. Yadav did what he does best. From 107/4 after 15 overs, India finished with 186/5, Yadav scoring 56 of those 79 runs.

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    Somshuvra Laha is a sports journalist with over 11 years' experience writing on cricket, football and other sports. He has covered the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, cricket tours of South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh and the 2010 Commonwealth Games for Hindustan Times.

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