Mohali, India: An emotional Virat Kohli hailed his match-winning 82 runs as one of his best-ever knocks as he catapulted India into the semi-finals of the World Twenty20 and knocked out Australia yesterday.
Kohli’s powerful 51-ball knock propelled India to a six-wicket victory over the Australians who had posted a challenging 160-6 in Mohali in their group stage match.
India now take on the West Indies in a semi-final clash in Mumbai on Thursday, as the hosts bid to become the first nation to win two World T20 titles and the first ever on home soil.
New Zealand play England in the other semi-final on Wednesday in New Delhi.
“You need challenges in every game, they improve you as a cricketer. I don’t know what to say, I am overwhelmed,” said man-of-the-match Kohli.
“This innings has to be in my top three, perhaps the top right now because I’m a bit emotional.”
Chasing Australia’s total, India were reeling at 94-4 before Kohli joined forces with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to put on 67 runs and hand India victory with five balls to spare.
Australia’s hopes of winning their first ever World T20 trophy are once again in tatters, with the top-ranked Test side and 50-over World Cup champions bowing out of the tournament.
The 27-year-old Kohli mixed caution with aggression in a scorching knock that included two sixes and nine fours in a pressure-cooker atmosphere at the Punjab Cricket Association ground.
Dhoni, who effected three dismissals, hit the winning four to trigger wild celebrations in the packed stands.
A dejected Australian skipper Steven Smith heaped praise on Kohli.
“Virat played an unbelievable knock... I think 160 was around par, it just took an unbelievable innings to get India over the line.”
Shane Watson’s international career ended in disappointment although the retiring Australian all-rounder did well to grab two key wickets and a spectacular running catch.
India suffered early setbacks in their chase with openers Shikhar Dhawan (13) and Rohit Sharma (12) cooling their heels in the dressing room with 37 runs on the board.
Watson proved his worth with the ball, accounting for Dhawan and Suresh Raina in his consecutive overs.
Yuvraj Singh, who had to get his ankle strapped after pulling a muscle, made a valiant 21.
Dhoni said his charges faced a difficult run chase.
“The middle overs were tough, it was difficult to hit the ball from back of a length, especially against the spinners. We felt if we ran well in the middle overs we had a chance.”
Earlier, opener Aaron Finch shared 54 runs for the opening wicket with Usman Khawaja to give Australia a flying start after Smith won the toss and elected to bat.
Khawaja, enjoying a purple patch with the bat, smashed rookie fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah for four boundaries in the second over of the innings.
Finch matched his opening partner in aggression, carting off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin for two sixes on the trot as the Aussies raced to 50 runs inside just four overs.