Lendl Simmons, coming in to the West Indies World T20 squad for this semifinal, after Andre Fletcher was ruled out due to injury, pulled off the cat has nine lives impersonation to perfection to help West Indies to victory over a shambolic-while-bowling India to book their place in the Eden Gardens final.
For three matches in a row, India held their nerve, to just about make it to the final four of the World T20. But, when it came to the biggest moment, the pure knockout, the win-or-you-are-done game, India blinked and West Indies winked their way into the finale against England.
The man who won West Indies the match – Simmons – was caught out twice in his innings, first when he was on 18, and then when the match was in the balance, on 50. Both times, the India bowlers – R Ashwin in the first case and Hardik Pandya the second time – bowled no-balls to let Simmons off and as a result, the Mumbai Indian guided the West Indies to a seven-wicket victory, surviving another close call in the 18th over, when Ravindra Jadeja completed a catch in the deep, only to step onto the boundary cushions.
India had chance after chance after chance to gain a stranglehold in this match, after dismissing the danger man Chris Gayle in the second over of the innings – courtesy a brilliant full ball from Jasprit Bumrah -- but the West Indies, chasing 193, after India finished on 192/2 thanks to another Virat Kohli (89 n.o., 47b, 11x4, 1x6) masterclass, rode on a luckier-than-a-cat innings from Simmons and the help from the dew to pick up a close victory with two balls to spare.
Simmons stood tall till the end of the match, scoring an unbeaten 83 (51b, 7x4, 5x6), and forging brilliant partnerships, first with Johnson Charles (52, 36b, 7x4, 2x6), and then with Andre Russell (43 n.o., 20b, 3x4, 4x6), to take West Indies to a second World T20 final. The winners of the 2010 and 2012 WT20s will now face off in the final at the Eden Gardens.
Earlier, the India batting got off to a great start, with Rohit Sharma, on his home ground, finally finding some for to set the home team on their way. Rohit has found it difficult to score runs in this World T20, with the slow wickets not quite suiting his batting. But, on the true Wankhede wicket, Rohit found that timing of his, taking a fancy to Andre Russell in the final over of the Powerplay just to give the innings that momentum.
So, when Rohit (43, 31b, 3x4, 3x6) got out in the second ball of the eighth over, missing a straight one from Samuel Badree, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane continued the run-scoring without too many problems.
Kohli picked up from where he had left off in that Australia innings really, running like a hare again, with Rahane giving him good support. Rahane was picked for Dhawan to give stability to India's top order, and he did just that, allying perfectly with Kohli, as the two right-handers put on 66 runs in eight overs and a ball.
When Rahane (40, 35b, 2x4) fell, after mistiming a pull shot to midwicket, India were on 128/2 in 15.3 overs, and skipper M.S. Dhoni came in and did the running thing again. A thing of beauty it is to watch Dhoni and Kohli run between the wickets, and even West Indies' athletic, quick fielders could do little as the duo ran, ran and then ran some more.
In between all those twos and threes, there were a few boundaries too, most of them coming off the beautiful blade of Kohli, who played another one of those "wow" innings. Kohli and Dhoni (15 n.o., 9b, 1x4) put on 64 runs in the last four and a half overs to push India past 190.
But, with the bowlers feeling the need to help Simmons out, West Indies prevailed in the chase.
Watch the highlights of India vs West Indies semifinal match HERE