November 16, 2023
NEW DELHI – Banishing the ghosts of the 2019 World Cup semi final against New Zealand four years ago in Manchester, there was a sense of invincibility ever since Rohit Sharma welcomed Trent Boult for a boundary off the fourth delivery of the first over, and stayed true to the set template of setting the tone with a hurricane knock for the likes of Shubman Gill (80 not out), Virat Kohli (117 off 113) and Shreyas Iyer (105 off 77) to flourish and propel the team to the highest total in any World Cup knockout match by racking up 397 runs.
In response, the finalists of the 2015 and 2019 World Cups, New Zealand were kept in the hunt by Kane Williamson and Daryl Mitchell, who came up with a solid counterattack to put together 181 runs for the third wicket and then by a 75-run stand between Mitchell and Glenn Phillips, before Mohammed Shami (7/57) tilted the momentum with a burst of wickets to propel the home side to the November 19 final in Ahmedabad.
The Kiwis lost openers Devon Conway (13) and Rachin Ravindra (13) in identical fashion, caught behind by KL Rahul off Shami, before skipper Williamson and Mitchell came together to almost dash India’s hopes. While Williamson took some time to get his eyes in, Mitchell went after the Indian bowlers and went on to slam his second century of the tournament in 85 balls, before Shami arrived for a third spell to break the partnership.
With New Zealand cruising at 220 for 2, Shami leaked a single off the first ball to allow Mitchell get to his hundred, and the next ball got rid of Williamson, who flicked straight to Suryakumar Yadav at deep square after contributing a 73-ball 69. One ball later, Shami doubled the joy for the Wankhede crowd by trapping Tom Latham for a duck, for his 50th World Cup wicket in 17 innings.
Glenn Phillips (41) gave India a late scare as he teamed up with Mitchell to produce 75 runs for the fifth wicket before Jasprit Bumrah packed him back in his final over, but it was Shami, who came back to end New Zealand’s hopes and pick his third five-wicket haul of the tournament with the wicket of Mitchell, who raged a lone battle scoring 134 off 119 deliveries, laced with 9 fours and 7 sixes. He added a couple more to make it a memorable outing, and become the first ever Indian bowler to pick seven wickets in a World Cup game as the Kiwis bowed out of the tournament after losing by 70 runs.
Earlier, electing to bat on a warm afternoon on a Wankhede pitch that turned slower towards the later part of the Indian innings, local lad Rohit came all guns blazing to neutralize the Kiwi opening bowlers – Trent Boult and Tim Southee, with a breezy 27-ball 47, laced with four hits to the fence and as many over it, to set the tone with a 71-run opening stand with Shubman, who played the perfect second fiddle to his skipper, and changed gears once the partnership was broken with Rohit holing one to his opposite number Kane Williamson off Southee.
Gill then kept up the pace, notching up 79 off 65 balls but ended up having to retire hurt in the 23rd over, but it was Kohli, who stole the show once again with his record 50th ODI century in front of his idol Sachin Tendulkar. Remarkably, it was the first instance when the Delhi batter went past 50 or more in a World Cup knockout game. While Gill returned in the final over to add a run to his overall score, it was the 163-run second wicket partnership between Kohli and Shreyas Iyer that catapulted the team’s score.
Iyer, another Mumbai lad, who joined Kohli in the middle after Gill limped back to the dressing room, took full advantage of the familiar conditions at the Wankhede to get to his a second successive century in the tournament, off mere 66 deliveries, after having sent the Kiwi bowlers to the leather hunt throughout his knock. Iyer’s barnstorming knock came off 70 deliveries, and contained four boundaries and eight sixes.
KL Rahul (39 not out off 20 balls) imparted the finishing touches towards the end as India couldn’t have asked for a better showing with the bat. New Zealand’s star pacer Southee also scored an unwanted century despite claiming three wickets off his 10 overs but what stood out in India’s favour was the way the home batters neutralized the potential threat in left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner, by milking 51 runs off his 10 without giving a wicket.