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Stokes on song as England face Kohli-inspired India in T20 semi

ADELAIDE: England go into a blockbuster semi-final clash with red-hot India at the Twenty20 World Cup on Thursday high on confidence after Ben Stokes’s batting heroics. The Adelaide Oval is expected to be sold out for a clash of the titans between the two top-ranked T20 teams in the world. Jos Buttler’s second-ranked England, the reigning 50-over world champions are gaining momentum after a less-than convincing win over Afghanistan, a shock defeat to Ireland in a rain-hit match and a washout against Australia left them having to win their final two Super 12 matches. They outplayed New Zealand before an unbeaten 42 by Test captain Stokes, whose selection for the T20 team had come under fire, ensured a tense win over Sri Lanka to secure a semi-final berth

“I know people have questioned his place in the team but when you need him he stands up,” said pace bowler Mark Wood of the all-rounder. “Ben never looked fazed or anything like that because he has been there and done it. You think he is under pressure but he takes it in his stride.” Buttler said Stokes “can play a lot of roles” after the England talisman, who guided them to ODI World Cup success in a nerve-shredding 2019 final, stayed calm during a collapse while chasing 142 in Sydney to drive his team across the line with two balls to spare.

Buttler and Alex Hales have been able to get England off to great starts and both hit half-centuries as the pair amassed an 81-run opening stand in 10 overs against a New Zealand attack led by Tim Southee and Trent Boult. However number three Dawid Malan looks doubtful for the semis after he injured his groin and did not bat against Sri Lanka.

He could be replaced by Phil Salt who has not played in the tournament so far but smashed a match-winning 88 not out off 41 balls against Pakistan in Lahore just over a month ago. Wood and Sam Curran have been outstanding with the ball for England, who won the T20 crown in 2010. Wood has bowled the fastest ball of the tournament at 155kph (96.3mph) while Curran has the best figures of any bowler so far with his five wickets for 10 runs against Afghanistan.

‘Free spirit’ SKY

The England bowlers will have to contend with s resurgent Virat Kohli, the top scorer of the tournament, and new T20 number one-ranked batsman Suryakumar Yadav if they are to halt the Rohit Sharma-led team’s march to a first global title since the 2013 Champions Trophy. Kohli, who turned 34 at the weekend, has amassed 246 runs in five innings including three match-winning unbeaten half-centuries to give him a staggering tournament average of 123.

Yadav, nicknamed ‘SKY’, is not far behind with 225 runs at an average of 75 with his arsenal of pyrotechnics including sweeps and scoop shots that keep the bowlers guessing. “The way Surya is batting is wonderful. It’s free spirited, free will, he is at that stage of his career,” spinner Ravichandran Ashwin said after his team’s 71-run hammering of Zimbabwe in their last Super 12 match on Sunday. “He is no spring chicken but still pretty early in his international cricket. With the way he is playing, he is complementing a lot of other batters in the team.”

Yadav blasted an unbeaten 61 off 25 balls at the MCG against Zimbabwe as India topped Group 2 after winning four of their five matches. India’s bowling attack have stepped up after leading pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah failed to make the plane to Australia because of injury. Young left-arm quick bowler Arshdeep Singh has taken 10 wickets, the same amount as Curran, and the 23-year-old has formed a potent seam attack with the experienced Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami.

“If Bhuvi and Arshdeep can get the ball to swing a little bit more, then Adelaide can become an even spicier contest from India’s point of view,” said Ashwin. It has been a wide open World Cup with pitches across Australia offering a range of challenges and plenty of shock results. “If it’s slow we’ll play according to those situations,” said coach Rahul Dravid, who said India would not finalize their team until assessing the wicket. “If we think it might play differently, then we’ll have to put up a squad to match that.” – AFP

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