The semi-final of the ICC Cricket World Cup between India and Zealand was played over two days at Old Trafford. Rains had washed out a significant part of the day in which the match was scheduled to be completed. The reserve day came into play, and what a match it turned out to be.
India lost by 18 runs, ending the hopes of a billion supporters who wanted to see the Men in Blue in the finals. New Zealand dominated for the most part when India batted second after the former had posted a modest total of 239/8.
India were expected to chase down the target with a fair degree of ease. What happened was the exact opposite, although the Men in Blue posed a serious threat when Ravindra Jadeja and MS Dhoni stitched together a brilliant 116-run seventh-wicket partnership. That, sadly, wasn’t enough.
India couldn’t have asked for a worse start. The three top batsmen – K L Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli – were back in the pavilion with the scoreboard reading 5/3. New Zealand seamers Matt Henry and Trent Boult were responsible for the three quick setbacks, and the situation worsened when Dinesh Karthik got out with the score at 24. Henry picked up three of the first four wickets, and India seemed all set to lose the match without putting up a fight.
Rishabh Pant (56-ball 32) batted patiently, but a momentary lapse of reason saw him indulge in a wild heave and gift his wicket to Mitchell Santner. Hardik Pandya (62-ball 32) flattered to deceive, getting out to a terrible slog that sent the ball up in the air. Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson took the catch off Santner with the score at 92. Both Pant and Pandya lost their wickets to irresponsible shots, and India continued to sink with MS Dhoni standing at the other end.
In came Jadeja (59-ball 77), who couldn’t do anything wrong today. He batted aggressively, sharing a crucial partnership with Dhoni (72-ball 50), who was uncharacteristically run out soon after Jadeja’s dismissal. India’s hopes ended with Dhoni’s exit, although no critic of the veteran keeper-batsman is likely to say that he didn’t attempt to play his part today.
Indian batting left a lot to be desired. The same cannot be said about the bowlers, who bowled a disciplined line and length – by and large – earlier in the match.
Opener Martin Guptill’s batting woes continued. Two Kiwi batsmen played circumspectly for the most part but helped New Zealand go past the 200 run mark and attain respectability on the scoreboard: Kane Williamson (95-ball 67) and Ross Taylor (90-ball 74). Both batsmen played responsibly, abandoning flashiness in favour of careful shot selection.
Indian bowlers were mostly accurate and economical. The 44th over bowled by Yuzvendra Chahal was a rare occasion when an Indian bowler delivered an expensive 18-run over.
India played without Mohammed Shami, and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar (3/43) proved he was a worthy choice. Rival teams have had a common strategy for dealing with Jasprit Bumrah (1/39): playing the brilliant bowler with caution and not flamboyance. New Zealand followed the same tactic, and Bumrah picked up one wicket while bowling as restrictively as ever.
Ravindra Jadeja dazzled on the field, too, executing a fabulous run out of Taylor and bowling the most economical spell (1/34) among Indian bowlers. Pandya (1/55), the third seamer, didn’t go for too many. Chahal (1/63), who dismissed Williamson, was guilty of bowling too many loose deliveries the Kiwi batsmen found easy to score off.
When he picture was still unclear during the group stage, Team India fans were hoping that India would play New Zealand in the semi-finals. That happened, and India went down.
Fans at Old Trafford as also those watching the game on the television would be hugely disappointed with the end result. That said, India had a very good campaign, giving rise to wonderful sporting moments that won’t be forgotten in a hurry.