World T20: Lendl Simmons soars after jetting in to save West Indies

Both the main protagonists, Lendl Simmons and Virat Kohli, enjoyed the luck of lottery winners, but in a clash of contrasting batting styles, it was the West Indian brand of power-hitting that prevailed.

It will take a while for distraught Indian fans to make sense of the comedy of errors that saw West Indies march into the World Twenty20 final, after chasing down an imposing 193 with two balls to spare at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

Both the main protagonists, Lendl Simmons and Virat Kohli, enjoyed the luck of lottery winners, but in a clash of contrasting batting styles, it was the West Indian brand of power-hitting that prevailed.

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There were just 27 dot balls in the India innings, with Kohli failing to score off only six of the 47 he faced. West Indies played out as many as 50, but where India managed only 17 fours and four sixes, their opponents smashed 146 runs in boundaries – 20 fours and 11 sixes.

Simmons, who plays his Indian Premier League cricket on this very ground for the Mumbai Indians, was an 11th-hour replacement for the injured Andre Fletcher. He got into the city only on Tuesday – “I slept on both flights,” he quipped – but there was no hint of fatigue as he set about the Indian bowling to the tune of seven fours and five sixes, most of them struck with pristine timing.

Kohli, who had batted with such majesty in the defeat of Australia, made the most skittish of starts. The fourth ball he faced, a slower one from Dwayne Bravo, beat him. Astonishingly, he set off for a bye, a misadventure that Ajinkya Rahane at the other end wanted no part of.

As Kohli stopped mid-pitch and turned, Denesh Ramdin, the wicketkeeper, saw his underarm throw miss off stump. Bravo, on his follow through, collected the ball and tried again. This time, the ball missed leg stump by a whisker. The next ball was worked to backward square leg. Had Ramdin gathered Simmons’s throw cleanly, Kohli’s despairing dive to complete two would have been well short.

Fortunately for India, who had dropped Shikhar Dhawan for Rahane and seen their best start to an innings in this competition (62 from 45 balls), Kohli settled down to play the sort of knock that he has become known for.

In high heat and extreme humidity, he scampered 19 singles and 10 twos, punctuating that with 11 fours and a six over long-on. In the last three overs, Kohli alone made 35.

When Jasprit Bumrah bowled Chris Gayle and Ashish Nehra induced a miscue to mid-off from Marlon Samuels, West Indies had lost their two most experienced hands inside three overs, with just 19 on the board. No matter. Johnson Charles raced to 50 from just 30 balls, while Simmons needed just 35 for his half-century.

By then, the umpires had already recalled him once. He was on 18 when he sliced Ravichandran Ashwin to backward point, where Bumrah dived forward to take an excellent catch. But the subsequent replay showed that Ashwin had overstepped. In his next over, Charles slugged six and four. With dew heavy on the ground and no appreciable turn on offer, India’s premier spinner wasn’t seen again.

Simmons hadn’t progressed from 50 when the no-ball curse struck India again. This time, it was Hardik Pandya from round the wicket. The full toss was slapped straight to Ashwin at cover, but again, the replay transformed raucous celebration into sullen silence.

Bumrah started the 18th over with three dot balls. Simmons heaved the next to deep midwicket where Ravindra Jadeja took the catch and palmed the ball inside to Kohli. But Jadeja’s foot had touched the rope, and India wouldn’t get any more chances.

Simmons finished with 82 from 51 balls, the same numbers as Kohli against Australia. But as the tournament’s outstanding player heads home, it’s the standby that will play in Sunday’s final against England.

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