Seagulls constantly flew from the roof as a packed venue kept erupting with boisterous cheers. The birds missed their sleep while 82,507 fans enjoyed a raucous Sunday night at the Melbourne Cricket Ground as the Men in Blue kept their tryst with the semifinals.

After Suryakumar Yadav’s frenzied 25-ball unbeaten 61 set India on a strong pedestal, the bowlers got to work, and Zimbabwe wilted. The ICC Twenty20 World Cup Super 12 Group 2 match had seemingly tilted India’s way once Rohit Sharma’s men posted 186 for five. And there were no surprises in the second-part as Zimbabwe was bowled out for 115 in 17.2 overs. India’s 71-run triumph paved its way towards Thursday’s semifinal against England at Adelaide.

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Just as the crowd was settling back after dinner, Wesley Madhevere drove lazily to a waiting Virat Kohli at short-cover, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar had struck with his first ball. It got worse for Zimbabwe when Arshdeep Singh castled Regis Chakabva. There was a tiny lull as skipper Craig Ervine and Sean Williams were at the crease, but once they retreated, popping up catches, and Tony Munyonga fell to Mohammed Shami, the rival was down for the count at 36 for five. Sikandar Raza picked R. Ashwin (three for 22) for a couple of strikes, and Ryan Burl targetted Axar Patel, but these were dying embers as India stayed the course.

Rahul comes good

Earlier, the Indian fans trooped in with their blue jerseys. A live-band belted out A.R. Rahman’s “Dil se re” and the excitement quadrupled once Rohit won the toss and elected to bat. The skipper and his deputy K.L. Rahul remained watchful before freeing their arms. The former drove and slashed while the latter flicked a six off seamer Richard Ngarava.

Against the run of play, Rohit fell on the pull while speedster Blessing Muzarabani exulted. Kohli walked in and quickly picked a four. Back to his eager-beaver routine, Kohli muscled a whipped on-drive off spinner Wellington Masakadza. Rahul and Kohli added 60 for the second wicket before the latter holed out in the deep.

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This pattern of dismissal shadowed Rahul and Rishabh Pant, too, the last-named having replaced Dinesh Karthik in the playing eleven. Rahul (51) after etching his fifty with a six off Raza, attempted an encore and perished. Pant, meanwhile, failed to clear the on-side, with Burl pulling off a diving catch.

Shifting gears

At 101 for four in 13.3 overs, India needed Suryakumar and Hardik Pandya to stay firm. The initial runs were slow as Ervine swapped his seamers and spinners. But once Suryakumar struck Muzarabani for consecutive fours and Hardik glanced one past square-leg, India gained heft at the death.

Ngarava was slashed and hoisted, and when Tendai Chatara steamed in, Suryakumar scooped and lofted. Even as Hardik departed in the last over after the duo added 65 for the fifth wicket, Suryakumar picked his spots over square-leg and fine-leg for two sixes that reiterated his audacity. And India finished with a score well beyond Zimbabwe’s grasp.