Cricket World Cup: How underdog New Zealand stunned huge favourites India
After toppling India’s top-order, New Zealand survive Jadeja’s late onslaught to stun Men in Blue by 18 runs in a low-scoring thriller and reach the final for the second time in a row.
The bits and pieces brilliance of Ravindra Jadeja was held together by the solid glue of MS Dhoni in a record seventh-wicket partnership, but it was not enough to dig India out of the deep, dark hole that New Zealand’s bowlers had put them in.
In a match worthy of the occasion, New Zealand beat India by 18 runs as the rain stayed away from Old Trafford. When the day began, New Zealand rounded off what they had begun well, pushing their score to 239, a healthy effort after Kane Williamson perfectly sussed out the conditions in the key part of New Zealand’s batting.
The task before India was simple — 240 needed from 50 overs — but far from easy. Someone reading this scorecard years from now might believe that India bottled it, but with moisture hanging thick in the air like a suffocating dense fog, the batsmen had their task cut out against a bowling attack that was sent to earth precisely to make the most of such conditions. Matt Henry is built like a stallion and runs in like a thoroughbred and he produced a snorter to remove the batsman of the tournament. After interrogating Rohit Sharma outside the off stump with a succession of well-directed deliveries, Henry got one to look like it was coming in with the angle before nipping away off the pitch. Squared up, Rohit could only nick off. If Henry had butchered Rohit with a meat cleaver, Trent Boult pulled out the surgeon’s scalpel to send Virat Kohli packing. A wide delivery outside off slanted away drew a swish and a miss; the next was a fraction closer and Kohli got across to dab to point; the third ball was on the stumps, allowing Kohli to play without reaching for it. Set up complete, Boult curled the fourth in to the pad, beginning outside off, begging to be clipped through the on side. Kohli took the bait, the ball beat bat and he was nailed in front of the stumps. The finger went up and the review showed that height — the only thing that might’ve saved Kohli — was the umpire’s call.
With his two big brothers gone so early in the piece, KL Rahul was less than assured and when you’re in two minds it’s fatal to hang your bat outside off, as Rahul did, only to edge to the keeper. After 3.1 overs India were 5 for 3, and the chase was as good as dead in the water. Given the situation, the only pragmatic approach was to hold Dhoni back, and the confident manner in which Rishab Pant and Hardik Pandya ignored the scoreboard and addressed every ball on its relative merit allowed the seed of hope to be planted If the quick men had lit India up, Mitchell Santner, the left-arm spinner, ensured that the temperature never went down. In a spell that read 6-2-7-2 Santner not only kept the pressure up, he prised out Pant (32), starved of runs and mistiming a slog sweep, and Pandya (32), top edging a big shot.
Just when New Zealand believed it was all over, Dhoni and Jadeja came together. The disciple was in his element early on, advancing down the pitch to Neesham to smack the ball over long-on. The mentor was pleased and from there on, he spoke to Jadeja at every opportunity, mid-pitch, at the non-striker’s end and at the business end telling the swordsman of Jamnagar just which bowler to target where.
On the day, Jadeja’s timing was sublime and his shot selection spot on, good balls being sent to the fence leaving Williamson scratching his head in dismay. There were whips off the toes, heaves over on and cheeky steers down to third-man, and some frantic running in between, and the 116-run seventh-wicket partnership, the highest by any pair for the seventh wicket in a World Cup, actually put India nose in front.
When Jadeja fell, for 77 from 59 with four fours and as many sixes on a pitch where no other batsman even attempts to score at a run a ball, India needed 32 runs from 19 balls. With Dhoni at the crease, and confident enough to essay a nostalgic upper cut over point for six, there was life in the game yet. Then came a flash of brilliance, Martin Guptill running in from deep square-leg, swooped on the ball, lined up the one stump he had sight of and triggered the stumps. It was a run out for the ages and one that might replayed forever, with Dhoni gone on an even 50 in his last World Cup match and possibly his final effort as a 50-over cricketer.
With that swoop, New Zealand had the game, and a second successive appearance in a World Cup final. India’s campaign had come to an end, but they should hold their heads high for the manner in which they fought, even as they bowed to New Zealand, a team that was just too good on the day.