Cricket: World Cup - In the land of hope and Parore

India (50 overs) 251-6 New Zealand (48.2 overs) 253-5 A D Jadeja 76 M J Horne 74, R G Twose 60 New Zealand win by five wickets
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The Independent Online
NEW ZEALAND, a team of journeymen who know how to reach for the stars, are in the semi-finals of the World Cup. They beat India, who were already out of the tournament, by five wickets with more than an over left in the late evening at Trent Bridge yesterday. This is a yawning chasm in one-day terms, but the Super Six tie was secured only by a remarkable flurry of boundaries from their sixth-wicket pair, Roger Twose and Adam Parore.

It was Twose who won the man of the match award for his unflappable innings of 60, but Parore, who struck five rasping, businesslike fours in his 26, was a crucial foil. Fittingly, they had been together when the Kiwis beat Australia, their seminal victory in this tournament which sent them on their way and has put them where they are now.

The New Zealand win, after rain had interrupted play for 75 minutes with 10 overs remaining and 58 still needed, transforms the event. It means that Australia must beat South Africa at Headingley today to stay in it. Defeat would ensure that the Zimbabweans qualify for the semi-finals with a point more, earned by virtue of their washed-out match with New Zealand. The latter scenario would raise the possibility of a New Zealand- Zimbabwe final .

South Africa will be at their most intense, but Australia will respond in kind. They are in form and know it. If Steve Waugh's team prevail, the likelihood is that they will then have to meet South Africa again in the semi-final. Unless, that is, they win overwhelmingly, by 70 runs, or with 14 overs left, in which case they would overtake Pakistan on net run-rate, top the group and play the fourth-placed team, New Zealand.

And they said that this World Cup had the best devised system yet. Perhaps, but perhaps not, and coming down to net run rate is the equivalent of the football penalty shoot-out - never entirely satisfactory.

New Zealand will not be bothered about any of the above. They knew what they had to do yesterday and they will not be concerned now about who comes next. Their very blandness makes them almost, though not quite, attractive as a team. There is not an outstanding individual among them, yet they have forged a team ethos which is imperturbable.

A target of 252 might have been beyond many squads of similar talent. It looked at times beyond New Zealand but they stuck at it, at first through Matthew Horne, who has been dreadfully out of form and owed them some, and then through Twose, who owed them nothing. He has always been a doughty sort of left-hander, perfectly willing to get up the opposition's nose if necessary, and while there was nothing remotely spectacular about his innings it was still exemplary in its fortitude.

What the huge Indian contingent in the crowd desired yesterday, and in truth what probably everybody desired, was for one of their batsmen to provide a resplendent adieu to the tournament. Another fond, lingering glance at the order on the scorecard merely heightened the absurdity of their absence from the last rounds of the seventh World Cup.

Surely, one of the top five from Sachin Tendulkar to Mohammad Azharuddin (who declared his wish to remain as captain later) via Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Ajay Jadeja would offer a lasting, glorious memory in their final appearance in the Super Sixes. Anticipation was high as soon as they won the toss and batted.

There was a touch of moisture on the turf and drizzle in the air - mizzle, to use the technical cricketing term. But it was warm enough and India clearly reckoned that they could belt the Kiwis and their dibbly-dobbly, military medium, airy-fairy seamers around Trent Bridge and out of the match.

It was not, alas, to be. The angelic batsmen all partly established themselves, tempting their lovely followers with the promise of riches to come, and then succumbed to the dibbly-dobbly ones. This perhaps does a disservice to bowlers who have helped to keep New Zealand's collective head above the shifting waters of the one-day game - not least to Geoff Allott, the leading wicket-taker in the competition - but the answer to the question of whether you would rather see Tendulkar and Dravid bat or Gavin Larsen and Chris Harris bowl is not exactly elusive. That, though, is both the beauty and the ugliness of the one-day game.

Jadeja was the only Indian who went on yesterday - the little master, Tendulkar, having ended an understandably under-achieving competition with a loosely-timed drive - and he provided some golden moments. India did enough to make 251 and that seemed to be enough to see off the opposition.

Qualification for a World Cup semi-final is a wonderful motivating factor, however, and they set off at a dash. Nathan Astle, short of runs throughout, did a rare thing by giving the noble Javagal Srinath the charge and thumping him back over his head for four.

This could not last, and did not. Astle fell victim to Debashish Mohanty, Srinath found a lifter for Craig McMillan and StephenFleming flirted with danger before his loose, flashing drive against Mohanty ended up with the wicketkeeper. Horne perished when attempting a needless quick singl, but Chris Cairns hung round long enough to keep them in contention .

Parore hit two fours in an over off Robin Singh, so Srinath was brought back for one last attempt. He conceded 15 off the over. New Zealand weren't going quietly - they weren't going at all.

Hussain set to replace Stewart, page 2

Andrew Longmore, Scoreboard, page 3

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