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INDIA THRASH BANGLADESH, AFGHANISTAN STUN AUSTRALIA

The T20 World Cup has taken an electrifying turn with the Super 8 stage throwing up a shocker over the weekend. First, India cruised to a comfortable 50-run victory against Bangladesh on Saturday night that seemed to ensure them a spot in the semi-finals. But early on Sunday morning in India, Afghanistan pulled off a historic upset by defeating Australia, throwing the group wide open. Now, India faces Australia on Monday in what has become a virtual quarter-final, with the loser potentially crashing out of the tournament.

Against Bangladesh, India posted an imposing total of 196, thanks to a series of quick fire contributions from most batsmen.The victory was comprehensive but Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, usually reliable match-winners for India, are yet to find their best rhythm in this World Cup. Their partnership was brief but got India a quick 39 off 21 balls. While many want a change at the top of the order, opening with these experienced stars allows India to boost their middle order with power hitters, a strategy crucial for posting big totals on tricky tracks.

Bangladesh’s standout bowler, Tanzim Hasan, troubled most Indian batsmen with his clever variations in pace and bounce. Kohli fell to a slower ball, and Suryakumar Yadav was undone by extra bounce, showcasing Tanzim’s ability to challenge even the most skilful batsmen.

Rishabh Pant played a pivotal role in shifting the momentum for India. His aggressive knock yielded five boundaries in eight balls before Pant was dismissed but he had ignited India’s innings when it was needed most. Coming in at 108 for 4 in the 12th over, Hardik Pandya accelerated the innings further. After initial struggles, Pandya capitalized on a loose delivery from Mahedi Hasan and used his strength to hit boundaries off even yorkers. His power hitting, including four crucial boundaries in the last two overs, propelled him to a deserving fifty, reflecting Pandya’s importance in India’s batting lineup.

Despite none of their top five scoring a fifty, India’s collective batting effort resulted in a formidable score of 196. This performance highlighted India’s new approach in T20 cricket, where multiple batsmen adopt an aggressive stance, each spending no more than 25-30 balls at the crease but maintaining a strike rate of 150 or more.

Bangladesh’s chase was hampered by their poor opening partnership with Tanzid Hasan struggling to maintain a run-aball pace. Litton Das fell in the power play to a clever slower ball from Hardik Pandya. Kuldeep Yadav’s variations proved too much for most Bangladeshi batsmen, and his googly yielded key wickets at crucial moments.

Bangladesh’s efforts were often panicky and lacked clarity but Indian bowlers too need to be commended. Kuldeep’s variations left the batsmen guessing, while Jasprit Bumrah’s exceptional spell where 15 of his 24 deliveries were dots, stifled Bangladesh who eventually lost the match by 50 runs without threatening India at any stage.

The most dramatic twist, however, came later when Afghanistan stunned Australia and sent shock waves through the cricketing world. Batting first, Afghanistan set a target of 149. Australia’s chase was soon derailed by Afghan bowlers, with Naveen-ul-Haq and Ibrahim Zadran delivering crucial early blows. Despite a valiant effort from Glenn Maxwell, who scored a quick fire 59 off 41 balls, Australia fell short, managing only 127 for 8 in their 20 overs. This 21-run victory highlighted Afghanistan’s growing stature in global cricket and opened up the group standings.

Afghanistan’s historic win has created a three-way contest for semifinal spots in the group. With four points and the best run rate, India currently leads the race. But if they lose badly to Australia in their final game and Afghanistan pull off a big win over Bangladesh, there is an outside chance of India still missing out on a semifinal spot!

As the so-far undefeated Team India prepares to face Australia, the key will be their top-order batsmen and their ability to handle Australia’s pacers. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli need to start firing at their best, while India’s bowlers must contain Australia’s power-packed batting lineup. For Australia, the match is crucial to redeem themselves after the loss to Afghanistan. Their bowlers, particularly Mitchell Starc and Adam Zampa, need to deliver strongly to restrict India’s batting.

A victory for India would ensure their semi-final entry and boost their confidence for the knockouts. For Australia, a win is essential to qualify for the next stage. Both teams have a rich history of close clashes and often bring out the best in each other. The match promises a spectacle of high-quality cricket and frayed nerves. Fans around the world will be watching closely as the outcome of this match could well determine the ultimate trajectory of this prestigious tournament!

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

Siddhaarth Mahan The writer is a specialist on Sports and Cinema who works as an actor in the Hindi film industry, presently he is in New York for the World Cup coverage

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