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SKY storm ensures India beat Zimbabwe by 71 runs, sets up semi-final vs England — Key Takeaways

India had already mathematically qualified for the Men’s T20 World Cup semifinals due to Netherlands beating South Africa, but needed to defeat Zimbabwe to top the table.

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New Delhi: The final day of Super 12 matches for the ongoing Men’s T20 World Cup was a triple-header that began with a massive upset as the Proteas lost to their Dutch counterparts. But the remaining results were far more conventional, with Pakistan defeating Bangladesh and finally, India cementing their place at the top of their group with a resounding victory over Zimbabwe by 71 runs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The win sets up two exciting semifinal encounters for the coming week, with Group 2 runners-up Pakistan taking on Group 1 winners New Zealand on Wednesday at the Sydney Cricket Ground, while Group 2 winners India will face Group 1 runners-up England on Thursday at the Adelaide Oval.

ThePrint takes a look at some key talking points from today’s MCG match.

SKY flies high again, extending an all-timer 2022 with rapid fifty

As stated in the LIVE blog for today’s match, cricket commentary and media are running out of descriptors to use for Suryakumar Yadav’s stellar year in T20 internationals, as well as the nature of his shot selections and ability to execute. This is because in T20Is played in this calendar year so far, Suryakumar has plundered 1,026 runs at an average of 44.60 and, more importantly, a strike rate of over 186.

No other batsman comes close to meeting both the records and strike rate metrics this year — Mohammad Rizwan has 924 runs but at a rate of 122, Virat Kohli has 735 runs at a rate of 139, for instance. Sikandar Raza and Glenn Phillips have breached both the 600-run mark and the 150-strike rate mark this year.

While they contribute significantly with the ball and in the field respectively, it is Suryakumar who stands tall far above the competition. He was in top form again on Sunday, playing out his finest innings of the tournament, scoring 61 off just 25 balls. His high-flying night was summed up by his repeated lap shots for boundaries over fine leg and carved shots against Zimbabwe’s vaunted pace attack.

Bhuvneshwar and Arshdeep shine with the new ball again

Over the course of this tournament, India have finally found their ideal new ball pair for the late spring Australian conditions — Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Arshdeep Singh.

The duo has been largely performing at a high standard all tournament but appear to have taken to the MCG pitch the best, as shown by their figures against Pakistan a few weeks ago and Zimbabwe today. By extracting a great deal of swing both ways, the duo repeatedly pegged back the Zimbabwean top order and put them under early scoreboard pressure.

While Sean Williams and Craig Ervine did a far better job of countering and surviving this opening spell compared to Wessly Madhevere and Regis Chakabva, neither of them were able to score at more than a run a ball to provide a major counterattack. As a result, the match was won in the second innings powerplay.

Zimbabwe exceed India’s batting to spin in middle overs due to greater intent

Virat Kohli is likely to finish this tournament as the highest run-getter as well as the man with the highest batting average, given his three unbeaten half-centuries so far. However, his and the Indian openers’ relative failure to attack spin in the middle overs was exposed today.

Following the early dismissal of captain Rohit Sharma, both KL Rahul and Virat Kohli started off with boundaries against Wellington Masakadza and Ryan Burl. However, they slowed down significantly as the ball got softer and the more experienced spinners Sikandar Raza and Sean Williams took charge.

With lines and lengths more consistently wicket to wicket from Raza’s end and flatter and fuller from Williams’ end, the duo simply couldn’t find the boundaries, often mistiming entirely or failing to use their power hitting game to hit through the line. By contrast, even as their side were reeling at 5 wickets down for just 36, Raza and Burl attacked India’s spinners the most, racing to a partnership of 60 off 37 balls. They intelligently picked gaps and perfectly timed their high-risk high-reward shot selections, in an approach more akin to the in-form Suryakumar than anyone else. India may have their bases covered to go all the way, but such little things in the game may hurt them more against a better side like England than it did today.

Zimbabwe pay ultimate price for corruption and neglect of shrinking talent pool

Just over a week ago, having squeaked out a 1-run win over Pakistan, Zimbabwe appeared to have a real chance of making to the semifinals. But a similarly close loss against Bangladesh followed by two resounding defeats to the Netherlands and India meant that they crashed from third in their Super 12 group to last place, needing to play regionals next year in order to guarantee a place in the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup.

While new head coach Dave Houghton had given the Chevrons a much needed impetus to play with belief, intent and near-complete freedom, this is ultimate a side cobbled together with veterans on their last legs and green youngsters developed from a domestic system beset with administrative corruption and infrastructural neglect for decades.

With only Ryan Burl and the pace attack resembling anything close to prime age, Zimbabwe were always plagued by an undercooked and out-of-form top order. Coach Houghton may need to work closely with the slowly resurging domestic league to develop some new blood and manage this period of batting transition for the decade, with senior heads Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, Regis Chakabva and even star man Sikandar Raza likely retiring from the game in the next couple of years.

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