World Cup: Seven-star Shami and Virat lead the way as India end semi-final jinx

Virat Kohli set it up with a blistering century and Mohammed Shami delivered the sucker punch as India steamrolled New Zealand by 70 runs in the first semi-final

Mhammed Shami celebrates after dismissing Daryl Mitchell of New Zealand at Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday (photo: Getty Images)
Mhammed Shami celebrates after dismissing Daryl Mitchell of New Zealand at Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday (photo: Getty Images)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

As the men in blue, marshalled by two of their biggest warriors — Virat Kohli and a seven-star Mohammed Shami — showed New Zealand the door in the first World Cup semi-final on Wednesday in front of a packed Wankhede Stadium, a rainy Old Trafford afternoon of 2019 seemed a distant memory. 

It took India 12 years, not to speak of two semi-final heartbreaks in 2015 and in 2019 at the hands of the Kiwis, to revive their hopes of regaining the cup at home after 2011. India will be taking on the winners of the second semi-final between Australia and South Africa in Ahmedabad on Sunday. 

However, the 70-run win, despite India's gigantic total of 397/4, was not as easy as the scorecard makes it seem, as the contest lived up to its advance billing as a cracker of a semi-final. A counter-attacking 134 (off 119 balls) by Daryll Mitchell and his heroic 181-run partnership with skipper Kane Williamson (69 off 73) subjected the Indian bowling line-up to a stern test for the first time in the tournament. But as ever, Shami stood out with amazing figures of 9.5-0-57-7 for India to make it 10 wins in a row.     

There will be 100 good reasons why Kohli’s historic 50th century in ODIs, overtaking Sachin Tendulkar on the latter’s home turf, will overshadow the contributions from everyone in the top five.

Shreyas Iyer, the Mumbaikar, made the occasion a memorable one for him in front of his family and friends with an attacking century (105 off 70 balls), while new ODI no.1 batter Shubman Gill fought back cramps to remain unbeaten on 80 while KL Rahul chipped away with a cameo of 39 off 20 balls.  

Soon after Kohli slumped to the ground on reaching three figures, he bowed in the direction of where Tendulkar was sitting, and blew his customary flying kiss to wife Anushka Sharma.  

The master blaster was quick to respond on his X handle: ‘’The first time I met you in the Indian dressing room, you were pranked by other teammates into touching my feet. I couldn’t stop laughing that day. But soon, you touched my heart with your passion and skill. I am so happy that young boy has grown into a ‘Virat’ player. 

"I couldn’t be happier that an Indian broke my record. And to do it on the biggest stage — in the World Cup semi-final — and at my home ground is the icing on the cake,’’ he added.

The die was cast no sooner than Rohit won the toss and opted for the no brainer — bat on a flat wicket with no hint of swing for Boult, Tim Southee & Co. If the Kiwis had a chance in the game, it would have been to put up a 300-plus score and then try to put the hosts under the pump with a few early wickets. It did not happen as the Indian top order continued untroubled by any of the New Zealand bowlers.     

This has been the blueprint of the Indian batting approach throughout the tournament. First up, Rohit helps them get quickly off the blocks in the powerplay, and as the field is spread, looks to rotate the strike and look for the poor balls to put away.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines