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Cricket-India look to end clear knockout hurdle in England semi-final

India can take a huge step towards winning their first major title in over a decade and bury any doubts about their backbone in the knockout rounds when they face defending champions England in the Twenty20 World Cup semi-finals on Thursday.

Despite being backed by the world’s richest cricket board, success on the biggest stage has largely proved elusive for India and their 2013 Champions Trophy triumph is the most recent of their five global titles.

Rohit Sharma’s team, however, head into the clash with England in Guyana on a six-match unbeaten streak in the tournament and determined to emulate the title success of the 2007 side in the inaugural edition.

Rohit, who along with fellow stalwart Virat Kohli could be playing at a last World Cup, returned to form with a 41-ball 92 in a thumping win over Australia in the Super Eight stage and said his side would continue being aggressive.

“We don’t want to do anything different. We want to play the same way we’ve been playing, understand what individuals need to do at certain points in the game and play freely, not trying to think too much about what lies ahead,” he added.

“It’s important that we play our cricket well. So far we’ve been doing that consistently. Nothing changes for us, we want to focus on what we want to do and take the game on.”

Indian fans will still be anxious given their team’s shaky displays in the latter stages of big tournaments.

A dominant Indian side topped the group stage in the 2019 50-overs World Cup but crashed out in the semi-finals to New Zealand. They also fell at the same stage of the T20 World Cup in 2022, going out to England.

After more heartbreak in the 2023 World Test Championship, where they lost in the final to Australia, India’s only defeat at last year’s ODI World Cup on home soil was in the title decider against the same opponents.

But India look in fine fettle with both bat and ball this time around. Rohit has scored 191 runs in six matches, while pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah has 11 wickets and spinner Kuldeep Yadav, a late entry into the side, has claimed seven in three games.

England’s campaign has stuttered with losses to Australia and South Africa in the group stages and they only made the Super Eights by virtue of having a better net run rate than Scotland.

Now, however, they stand only two victories away from becoming the first team to retain the T20 World Cup trophy.

“In tournament cricket, sometimes it is better to sneak up and nick it at the end,” said all-rounder Liam Livingstone.

“Hopefully that’s the way we will go. A lot of lads have been contributing in the last few games, which should stand us in good stead going forward.

“We’ve got hopefully two massive games.”

England’s failure to defend the ODI World Cup last year heaped pressure on skipper Jos Buttler and coach Matthew Mott and they will hope West Indies-born pacers Jofra Archer and Chris Jordan can continue their good form in the knockout rounds.

Buttler is England’s top scorer with 191 runs while opener Phil Salt has 183 and the pair’s form could prove crucial if they are to advance.

Awaiting India or England in the title clash will be the winner of the first semi-final between South Africa and dark horses Afghanistan, who meet on Wednesday.

(Reuters)

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Last Updated: 16th Jul 2024