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World T20: India bank on spin to blunt West Indian weapons

Last updated on: March 30, 2016 19:58 IST
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Ravichandran Ashwin (centre) celebrates with his team mates after taking the wicket

IMAGE: Ravichandran Ashwin, centre, celebrates with teammates after taking a wicket. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

The second World Twenty20 semi-final is likely to hinge on who emerges on top in the battle between the big-hitting West Indian batsmen and India's wily spinners when the former champions clash at the Wankhede Stadium, in Mumbai, on Thursday.

Coverage: ICC World T20 2016

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India, the world's top-ranked side in the shortest format, arrived at the sixth edition of the tournament with 10 wins from 11 matches in 2016 and were considered overwhelming favourites by fans, opposing captains and bookmakers alike.

But while an opening Super 10 stage defeat to New Zealand, who reached the semi-finals unbeaten, was a wake-up call, the home side's credentials came into question after the one-run victory over Bangladesh, who lost three wickets off the last three balls.

Virat Kohli of India bats during the ICC WT20 Group 2 match against Australia in Mohali

IMAGE: India's Virat Kohli bats during the ICC WT20 Group 2 match against Australia in Mohali. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Virat Kohli's wide blade was then called upon to see off a stiff challenge from 50-over World champions Australia in a winner-takes-all contest to reach the last four, his masterclass glossing over some major batting flaws of the 2007 champions.

Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have failed to build a solid foundation for the hosts and their opening stands of 5, 14, 42 and 23 have put pressure on the middle and lower order to provide the bulk of the scoring.

Left-hander Suresh Raina's scores of 1, 0, 30 and 10 haven't been overly helpful either, and calls for the number four batsman's omission from the team have only gained momentum.

Yuvraj Singh is ruled out of the remainder of the competition following an ankle injury in the victory over Australia, and even though it comes as a big blow for the hosts, it gives Manish Pandey, who was called in as replacement, an opportunity to show his talent on the biggest stage of T20 cricket.

"The ICC has confirmed that the Event Technical Committee of the ICC World Twenty20 India 2016 has approved Manish Pandey as a replacement player for Yuvraj Singh in India’s squad for the tournament," read a statement from the ICC on Wednesday.

The 26-year-old Pandey has played just two T20Is, against Zimbabwe in Harare in July, last year.

"You can't rely on one batsman; yes, the others have contributed, but still, at the same time, if we can do a bit more with the bat at the top of the order and the middle overs, I think we will feel the pressure slightly less," India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said after the Australia victory.

"Also, it will be good, because still we feel we are batting at 65 percent, barring Virat (Kohli)."

 India's Ashish Nehra (right) is congratulated by teammates after taking the wicket of Australia's Usman Khawaja

IMAGE: India's Ashish Nehra, right, is congratulated by teammates after taking the wicket of Australia's Usman Khawaja. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Dhoni faces the prospect of lifting a third World Cup for India after leading the team in the 2007 triumph and to the 50-overs' title in 2011.

A win on Thursday will take India to a third final in the World Twenty20 under Dhoni's leadership after they went down to South Asian rivals Sri Lanka in the last edition in Bangladesh.

The strong form of his spinners and accuracy of pacemen Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah in the death overs will give him hope of taming the West Indies batsmen on a surface that has done little to help the bowlers in three matches.

South Africa saw a 230-run target chased down by England, who were at the receiving end of Chris Gayle's assault when they failed to defend a score of 182.

West Indies Chris Gayle (L) and Dwayne Bravo celebrate after Gayle took a wicket

IMAGE: The West Indies' Chris Gayle, left, and Dwayne Bravo celebrate after the former took the wicket of South Africa's Rilee Rossouw, at Nagpur. Photograph: Reuters

At the same ground, which has relatively short boundaries, Afghanistan gave South Africa a scare while chasing 209 until they lost too many wickets in the second half of the innings.

Afghanistan also inflicted the only Super 10s defeat on the West Indies, their spinners finding a way to restrict their powerful batsmen in Nagpur.

The 2012 champions rested Gayle for that game and a hamstring injury to Andre Fletcher, who has since been ruled out of the tournament and replaced by Lendl Simmons, hampered their chase further.

But the inability to chase down a modest 124 would have not gone unnoticed and skipper Darren Sammy is hoping it was just one-off and not a sign of inconsistency.

"We have to leave this game in Nagpur," Sammy said.

"We'll leave this game here and see it as the blip in the tournament.

"Now we have two knock-outs to play. Two more steps." 

The teams (from):

India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh, Pawan Negi, Ajinkya Rahane, Mohammed Shami.

West Indies: Darren Sammy (Captain), Samuel Badree, Sulieman Benn, Carlos Brathwaite, Dwayne Bravo, Johnson Charles, Lendl Simmons, Chris Gayle, Jason Holder, Evin Lewis, Ashley Nurse, Denesh Ramdin, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor.

Match commences at 7pm (IST).

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