India, the early favorite to win the 2016 T20 Cricket World Cup, suffered an early exit Thursday. The team was eliminated by West Indies by seven wickets with two balls remaining in the second semifinal of the tournament at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai — even after the Men in Blue got off to a dream start when Jasprit Bumrah cleanly bowled Chris Gayle, who was forced to exit after scoring a mere five runs.
But while some fans surely believed the game was all but over at that point, with West Indies looking at a chase of 193 and their best batsman in Gayle — possibly the world’s best T20 hitter — back in the dugout, a series of shocking mistakes by India and storybook innings from local favorite Lendl Simmons ended the host’s dreams of a second T20 Cricket World Cup title. India won the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007.
— Henry Moeran (@henrymoeranBBC) March 31, 2016
Simmons, who plays for the Mumbai Indians of the Indian Premier League, which starts its ninth season on April 9, was not part of the West Indies team, as he was nursing a back injury. But when Andre Fletcher strained a hamstring, Simmons got a call asking if he could get on a plane and fly to India.
“I got a call in morning asked if I was fit, I said yes,” Simmons said in his post-match interview. “I was under bit of pressure. They said I came here for a reason and said I have to deliver and I guess I delivered tonight.”
Deliver he did, piling up a match-winning 82 off of 51 with five of his shots going for six. However, it was his partner Andre “Superman” Russell, another IPL favorite, who blasted the dramatic match-ending maximum off of Virat Kohli who was brought in to bowl at the death.
Watch highlights of the West Indies vs. India T20 Cricket World Cup semifinal played on March 31 in the video below.
Russell finished with 43 not out off of 20, while Johnson Charles added 52 off of 36.
“Even when we lost Gayle, we had Simmons just off the flight,” Sammy said. “Yes, Gayle is our best player. But we have 15 match winners. Today Charles, Simmons and Russell took responsibility.”
Simmons needed a bit of luck on his side, benefiting from two no-balls — first by Ravichandran Ashwin and then by Hardik Pandya — either one of which would have resulted in the loss of his wicket.
And that wasn’t the end of Simmons’ good fortune. He was caught at the boundary by Ravindra Jadeja, but replays showed that Jadeja’s foot came in contact with the boundary advertising cushion as he flipped the ball to teammate Kohli. His momentum carried him over, and that hit was given as another six for Simmons.
“That went my way, and I just cashed in,” Simmons said.
“The only thing I’m disappointed about was the two no-balls,” said India Skipper M.S. Dhoni. “Other than that we did our best. I thought 190 was a good score. It’s a demanding format, it was draining because a few of our games were very close.”
West Indies, winners of the 2012 Cup, will now face England — who won the competition in 2010 — in a Sunday final that will give the T20 World Cup its first two-time champion. England stopped previously unbeaten New Zealand on Wednesday to advance to the semifinal.
West Indies defeated England by six wickets when the two teams met in the Super 10 stage, behind a majestic 100 by Gayle off of just 48 balls.
Sport picture of the day: Darren Sammy leads the victory charge https://t.co/3xjRyXRZx9 | Guardian
— Sport (@sportuk_db) March 31, 2016
On Thursday, West Indies Captain Darren Sammy won the toss and decided to bowl, perhaps aware of the danger posed by Kohli when chasing. The India superstar delivered nonetheless, posting the high score on either team with 89 not out off of 47.
The successful chase of 193 was the second-highest ever completed by West Indies in the a T20 game — and the highest ever against India.
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The victory of India marks the latest high point in what now looks like a sudden an unexpected resurgence of West Indies cricket after the Windies teams of the 1970s and early ’80s dominated the sport. West Indies women also won their semifinal Thursday, defeating New Zealand.
The women will now play against Australia in the T20 Women’s Cricket World Cup final Sunday. In February, the West Indies Under-19 team won the 2016 U19 Cricket World Cup, defeating the India U19s in that final.
[Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images]