India hammered Zimbabwe by 71 runs as they set up a tasty T20 World Cup semi-final showdown with England after topping Group 2.
The curtain came down on the Super 12s with a triple-header and it was a day to remember for its drama.
There were three teams in contention of progressing with South Africa, Pakistan and India all fighting it out for top spot.
But by the time India took the field against Zimbabwe the destiny of the group was done and dusted, with their qualification already secured.
The Proteas’ fate was in their own hands at the start of the day, but they choked on the big stage once again as a shock 13-run defeat to inspired Netherlands in the first game frustratingly sent them crashing out.
That was unless Bangladesh could bail them out.
There was no such slip up for Pakistan as they progressed after a routine five-wicket victory over the Tigers as South Africa were condemned to another failed World Cup campaign.
With the pressure of qualification off India’s shoulders, the only question that remained was whether they would top the group and lock horns with England or finish second and face New Zealand.
India stumbled with the bat as they slipped from 87/1 to 101/4. But big-hitting Suryakumar Yadav showcased his talents in a brutal unbeaten 25-ball 61, which included six fours and four maximum blows, to propel his side to a formidable 186 after KL Rahul made his second successive half century at the top of the order.
Zimbabwe were simply blown away in the run chase. Classy India made early inroads to first reduce them to 2/2 and then 36/5 inside the first eight overs.
They were eventually bundled out for 115 as Ravi Ashwin mopped up the middle order with 3/22 after the seamers did the damage up front with the new ball.
And now attention swiftly turns to next week’s mouthwatering semi-final clashes.
Kane Williamson’s New Zealand take on Babar Azam’s Pakistan at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday, whilst Jos Buttler’s England and Rohit Sharma’s India do battle in Adelaide on Thursday.
England have long been heralded as a great white-ball side and last year’s semi-final defeat to the Kiwis was hugely disappointing. This is their shot at redemption.
Anything other than lifting the trophy at the MCG next Sunday will be seen as a failure for Buttler’s side and India are more than up for the task of playing the party poopers in a role reversal from the 2016 edition when runners-up England dumped them out on home soil.
Virat Kohli’s return to form is ominous and they will also need to tame Yadav’s middle-order explosives in order to keep the Indians in check. ‘SKY’ averages 40 with a strike-rate of 177 in his T20I career and has smashed 225 runs at the tournament so far. Only ‘King Kohli’ (246) has more in the Super 12s.
But England possess an impressive bowling attack with Sam Curran (10) and Mark Wood (nine) starring with 19 wickets between them.
Left-armer Curran has been a revelation with his exploits at the death and it will be an intriguing match-up between him and India’s fearless finisher.
Frightening Wood has bowled quickly all tournament and has regularly been clocked at 96MPH. Buttler will also be buoyed by Adil Rashid’s improvement in the win-or-bust game against Sri Lanka.
Leg-spinner Rashid has been a thorn in Kohli’s side and will be licking his lips at the prospect of dethroning him once again with the stakes at an all-time high.
The other semi-final pits two of the most consistent sides in recent years against one another.
A lot was made of Pakistan’s slim chances at the start of this World Cup, but you can never write off the 2009 champions. They have a phenomenal strike rate of reaching the final four having impressively come through the groups in six out of the eight editions of the event.
It has been a remarkable turnaround for the men in green after losing their opening two group games. But that will all be for nothing if they slump to another excruciating semi-final exit.
They are bidding to reach a first final since lifting the trophy 13 years ago after three near misses, the most recent of which came last year when they were pipped by eventual champions Australia.
New Zealand are desperate to reach a second successive final after losing to the Aussies last time out. They are the only side left in the tournament who haven’t previously won it, whilst the other three are bidding to join West Indies as the only multiple winners.
The Kiwis have an exceptional recent record in global events but have nothing to show for their incredible consistency on the world stage. As well as losing last year’s final, they also suffered heartache in the 2015 and 2019 50-over World Cup finals.
They would love nothing more than to reward bowlers Trent Boult and Tim Southee for their impeccable service than a white-ball trophy to go alongside their World Test Championship medals.
Whatever happens over the next week, it is set to be a fantastic finish to the showcase event and it will take some exceptional cricket to be crowned champions in Melbourne.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change