World T20: Australia set tough target for India in crucial tie

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Mohali, March 27 (IANS) Australia posted a competitive total of 160/6 in their crucial World Twenty20 encounter against India at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium here on Sunday.

Sunday’s match, the last in Group 2, is a virtual quarter-final as the winners will go through to the semi-finals. Both India and Australia have two wins from three matches, although the men from Down Under have a better net run rate.

Opener Aaron Finch was the highest scorer for Australia with 43 runs off 34 deliveries, hitting three boundaries and a couple sixes during his innings. Glenn Maxwell contributed 31 off 28 balls.

For India, all-rounder Hardik Pandya (2/36) copped some initial punishment before bagging a couple of crucial wickets while Yuvraj Singh (1/19), Ashish Nehra (1/20), Ravichandran Ashwin (1/31) and Jasprit (1/32) also bagged a wicket each.

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The Indians did not help their cause by conceeding as many as 14 extras.

Electing to bat first, Australia were off to an explosive start with openers Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch producing a 54-run partnership in just four overs. Bumrah copped a lot of punishment in his first over with Khawaja hitting him for four boundaries.

But Nehra gave India the breakthrough when Khawaja went after an outgoing delivery only to see the ball nick the top edge on the way to Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps.

The dangerous David Warner perished when he came down the track to Ashwin. But the left-hander could not connect as the ball spun away from him and Dhoni pulled off an easy stumping.

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Australia captain Steven Smith lasted for just six balls before Yuvraj had him caught behind with his very first ball. That saw the Australian run rate fall slightly with Finch and Maxwell struggled on a pitch which was offerring a fair bit of turn.

Finch was deprived of what would have been a well-deserved half-century when he perished while trying to prop up the run rate. He tried to pull a slightly short-pitched delivery from Pandya into the stands, but did not connect properly as the ball looped up for a fairly simple catch to Shikhar Dhawan at deep midwicket.

Maxwell was looking set for a big score. But he virtually gifted away his wicket to Bumrah when he went for a cross-batted heave only to be out-foxed by a slower delivery.

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Peter Nevill and Shane Watson hit a couple of fours and a six off Pandya in the last over to give Australia a strong finish.

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