Cricket World Cup 2019: New Zealand shred logic as India handed one of the oldest lessons in sport

In one of the greatest semi-finals of modern times, the Black Caps triumphed in a thriller at Old Trafford after Martin Guptill’s incredible run-out of MS Dhoni halted the run chase

Jonathan Liew
Chief Sports Writer
Wednesday 10 July 2019 15:40 BST
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England's cricketers practice at Edgbaston ahead of Thursday's World Cup semi-final against Australia

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

The logic of this World Cup tournament, and in many ways the logic of world cricket, was shredded by a magnificent New Zealand side on a watery Wednesday afternoon at Old Trafford. It is they, and not India, who will step out at Lord’s on Sunday after winning a semi-final that will rank with some of the very greatest of modern times. On the second day of this one-day international, the outstanding side of the competition so far were handed one of the oldest lessons in sport: that form, fame and pedigree count for nothing unless you seize your moment.

Even a team representing a nation of 1.3 billion is not immune from the pressure of the biggest stage. How else to explain India’s remarkable top-order implosion, as they spluttered and stuttered and finally wilted in the face of a modest target of 240? Clearly some sort of champion mentality resides in them still, as demonstrated by the way Ravindra Jadeja and Mahendra Singh Dhoni thrillingly hauled them back into the game and briefly threatened to steal it. But it was too little, too late. India will have to watch Sunday’s final on television.

As for New Zealand, how best to explain this? They were perhaps fortunate to be handed a soft start to the competition, fortunate that their pool game against India was washed out, fortunate to scrape into the semi-finals on net run rate. But good fortune is useless unless you capitalise on it, and in reaching their second consecutive World Cup final, Kane Williamson’s side have again proved that there are few teams better capable of punching above their weight.

On an average afternoon, the likes of Williamson and Matt Henry and Mitchell Santner would probably be able to walk the streets of Manchester unmolested. But on this day, in this game, New Zealand’s collective excellence proved more than a match for India’s individual talents.

From Henry’s opening burst to leave India 5 for 3, to Santner’s outstanding spell in the middle overs, to Martin Guptill’s inspired and decisive run-out of Dhoni in the 49th over, New Zealand backed themselves, and now stand just 100 overs from the biggest moment in their cricketing history.

There were few portents of the drama that was to come when the teams resumed at a half-empty Old Trafford after Tuesday’s play had been washed out. The sun was out, promising better batting conditions, and New Zealand were able to muster just 28 off the remaining 23 balls of their innings. No team had successfully defended a score this low in a semi-final since Australia in 2003, and thus all signs pointed to an Indian procession, and even if their fabled top-three were perhaps due an off day, few expected them to have one all at once.

Henry extracted both the openers, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul both edging behind for just a single. Between them, Trent Boult claimed the biggest scalp of all: the great Virat Kohli, pulled across his crease by a series of outswingers, only to be trapped by the barrel-straight inswinger. When Jimmy Neesham took a brilliant low catch in the gully to dismiss Dinesh Karthik, India were 24-4 after 10 overs.

The chase now rested in the hands of the middle order. But after a brief rebuilding job, neither Rishabh Pant nor Hardik Pandya could handle the pressure, both lobbing soft catches off the unerring left-arm spin of Santner. And so it fell to the Chennai duo of Dhoni and Jadeja, the finisher and the punisher, and for a nerve-shredding hour and a quarter India carved the total down to a manageable size.

Ravindra Jadeja was magnificent (AFP/Getty)
Ravindra Jadeja was magnificent (AFP/Getty) (AFP/Getty Images)

Did Dhoni leave Jadeja too much to do? An innings of 50 off 72, with the required rate rocketing past seven, eight and nine an over, certainly suggested as much. But for the most part Jadeja was doing a perfectly fine job as the aggressor, hitting Neesham and Santner for big sixes over long-on. Ninety off the last 10 overs became 62 off the last six, and if Dhoni was still bafflingly leaving the odd ball alone outside off-stump, at least with 42 required off the last four overs, India were within striking distance.

MS Dhoni is run out
MS Dhoni is run out (Getty)

Henry bowled a magnificent 47th over, just five from it, and with 32 needed off 14 balls Jadeja finally fell on his sword, launching Boult straight up into the air. His 77 off 59 balls was one of the great one-day innings in a losing cause. And though Dhoni finally clanked into action, striking Lockie Ferguson over point for six, the task was by this stage beyond even his considerable powers.

Martin Guptill celebrates his run-out of MS Dhoni
Martin Guptill celebrates his run-out of MS Dhoni (Getty)

Guptill’s brilliant run-out, a direct hit from backward square leg as Dhoni scampered to retain the strike, was the final blow. Joy unconfined for New Zealand; desolation beyond measure for India, whose future now lies in the hands of a new generation. Kohli will surely get another chance, and in the likes of Pandya, Pant and Jasprit Bumrah, the skeleton of another champion team is already in place. This missed opportunity, however, will haunt them for some time yet.

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