Will Kohli’s cover drives neutralise Gayle’s six hitting in tonight’s semi-final?

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Kersi Meher-Homji looks at replays and statistics and does some wishful thinking

England is in the World T20 final beating New Zealand by 7 wickets. Now we await the winner of India and West Indies tonight. Or rather on April Fool morning, Sydney time!

What a contrast between the teams! India had a disastrous opening, bowled out for 79 and losing by 47 runs against New Zealand in Nagpur.

The Windies started brilliantly in Mumbai with Chris Gayle leading the aerial bombarding. Against England on March 16, he smacked five fours and 11 sixes in his unbeaten 100 off 48 balls as the Windies won by 6 wickets with 11 balls remaining.

Who would have thought then that these four teams (New Zealand, India, England and West Indies) will make it to the semis?

India appeared to settle down three days later beating arch rivals Pakistan by 6 wickets cheered on by over 70,000 in Kolkata. Virat Kohli, the cover drive maharaja, hit an unbeaten 55 off 37 balls with seven fours and a six.

This was followed by a near death experience for India against Bangladesh at Bangalore. The unfancied Bangladeshis needed only two runs off the last three balls to beat the tournament favourites India but lost three wickets to lose by one run. The scoreboard showing WWW did not stand for World Wide Web!

But as India reached their acme beating Australia by 6 wickets (Kohli 82 not out off 51 balls with nine superb fours and two sixes), the Windies plummeted to their nadir on the same night, losing to qualifier Afghanistan by six runs.

Fortunately they had qualified for the semi-final by then, topping Group 1. Just shows how unpredictable T20 cricket can be.

Now to the million dollar question: who will win tonight’s semi-final? India is ranked no. 1 in T20 Internationals, West Indies is ranked no. 3. Kohli is ranked no. 1 batsman in T20I, Gayle no. 6.

Until their last match against Afghanistan, the Windies along with the Kiwis appeared on top in this World T20. India looked below par, especially against New Zealand and the qualifier Bangladesh.

India has the home advantage and if the pitch is a dustbowl, aggressive bats Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell will find run scoring difficult. On such a pitch India’s off-spinner Ravi Ashwin will pose problems for them.

India’s Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Kohli, skipper MS Dhoni and Ravi Jadeja are used to spinning tracts. However, the absence of all-rounder Yuvraj Singh, who was injured in the match against Australia on Sunday, will be felt.

Also India should not take the Windies leg-spinner Samuel Badree lightly.

The power play specialist Badree is accurate with quick arm action. As Gaurav Joshi covering matches forThe Indian Down Under in India wrote, “Badree’s ability to land the ball on a dime ”“ ball after ball ”“ is an art that needs to be commended.”

Finally, it comes down to Kohli’s majestic cover drives and Dhoni’s ”˜patented’ helicopter shot against Gayle’s aerial bombarding with towering sixes. Kohli’s average in successful run chases in T20 Internationals is an awesome 122.83 (737 runs in six completed innings) with a strike-rate of 131.

The winner will meet England in the final in Kolkata. My prediction for tonight’s semi-final: India to win by 11 runs or three wickets.

Wish I had a plane tickets to Mumbai and Kolkata to watch these matches live! This staying up till 4.30 am is exhausting, to put it mildly.


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