It is almost as if old demons that lay dormant rose from their slumber at Old Trafford, as India failed to defend a meagre but decent 239 against New Zealand at the first semi-final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 on Wednesday. In a closely fought contest, which dragged on for two days, courtesy rain, the momentum shifted continuously like a pendulum, until the resolve of the Kiwis and the calmness of their skipper Kane Williamson steered them through to the finish line.
After getting the out-of-form Martin Guptill cheaply for 1, the Indians piled pressure on the opposition, giving away merely 27 runs in the first Powerplay. After grinding the Indians for 51 balls for 28 runs, Henry Nicholls fell to a beautiful off-spinner from the returning Ravindra Jadeja, bringing Ross Taylor to the crease. He, along with Williamson, batted cautiously, adding 65 for the fourth wicket, before Williamson mistimed a cut straight to Jadeja at point.
While James Neesham, coming in at No. 5, and Colin de Grandhomme, coming in at No. 6, too fell rather cheaply, Ross Taylor got cracking and got his 50 in style, slog sweeping Yuzvendra Chahal over mid-wicket for a Maximum. Just as Grandhomme fell, the heavens opened and never closed that day, carrying the match on to the reserve day with the Kiwis at 211/5 in 46.1 overs. The next day wasn’t as eventful as the Kiwis would have hoped, as they could manage only 28 in the last 3.5 overs.
From there on, it was supposed to be India’s game altogether, but alas, it didn’t happen. The debacle started in the 2nd over with a beautiful out-swinger from Matt Henry, which got Rohit Sharma squared up, edging the ball to Tom Latham behind the wickets. Trent Boult made matters worse for the Men in Blue the very next over, trapping Skipper Virat Kohli on the crease with a peach of an in-swinger. A DRS review from the batsman for the LBW declared Umpire’s Call on wickets, getting him back in than pavilion for 1. KL Rahul didn’t too stay for long as he fished at an out-swinger he could have left alone to give Latham his second catch of the day, leaving India struggling at 5/3.
This is where India erred by sending in Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya ahead of the vastly experienced MD Dhoni. While Karthik wasted 25 balls for 6 runs, Pant played a little better for 32 runs off 56 balls before his inexperience and immature temperament had him slog sweeping Mitchel Santner, who was giving nothing away, to mid-wicket to Grandhomme, which left India in a real trouble at 71/5 in 22.5 overs. Just 8 overs later, Pandya too fell for 32, which brought in Jadeja at No. 8. Jadeja arrived in style, dancing down the track and whipping James Neesham over long on for a six.
From there on, it was all Jadeja, as he and MSD added 116 for the 9th wicket, swinging the momentum in India’s favour. With the required run rate creeping up, Jadeja, after a valiant 77 off 59 balls (strike rate of 130.5), mistimed a slower ball by Boult, hogging it to Kane Williamson at mid-on. It wasn’t over even then as long as MSD was at the helm. But, just 4 balls later, a brilliant direct throw from Martin Guptill from short fine leg shattered the stumps with MSD centimetres short of his crease. Then, it was only a matter of time before the No. 10 and No. 11 fell, giving the match to the Kiwis.
In the end, it was a combination of some really tight bowling by the Kiwis, the old problem of an inconsistent Indian batting order and their over-reliance on Virat Kohli and MSD, which cost them the match and the ire of a billion fans.