ICC World Cup 2019: Brutal end to a wonderful ride

ICC World Cup 2019: Brutal end to a wonderful ride

END OF THE ROAD: India’s captain Virat Kohli (left) throws his bat in frustration after being dismissed by New Zealand’s Trent Boult. AP/PTI

India’s dominating World Cup campaign came to a stuttering end with New Zealand cutting short their journey in an edge-of-the-seat thriller.

In a match worthy of a World Cup semifinal, where the fortunes fluctuated like the fickle English weather, New Zealand defeated India by 18 runs to make their second successive final following the one in the previous edition at home.

On an admittedly difficult wicket, where both seamers and spinners had a lot going in their favour, the New Zealand attack exposed India’s batting frailties against the moving ball, shooting them down for 221 all out in 49.3 overs after posting 239 for eight. The Kiwis had resumed from their overnight score of 211/5 when the rain had forced the extension of the first semifinal into reserve day here at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Given New Zealand’s world-class fielding and the difficult nature of the pitch, the target was much more than 240 but when India lost four wickets in the first 10 overs, the task became manifold. With the score reading 92/6, Ravindra Jadeja (77, 59b, 4x4, 4x6) linked up with M S Dhoni (50, 72b, 1x4, 1x6) to bring the contest alive, stitching a record 116-run partnership for the seventh wicket. While Dhoni held one end up, Jadeja, who was excellent with the ball and on the field earlier, was the enforcer that brought India closer to a miraculous escape but not close enough to ensure victory.

The left-hander’s departure in the 48th over greatly reduced their winning chances. Kane Williamson’s move to get his strike bowler to bowl his last over was risky but it paid off. With 32 needed off the last two overs, Dhoni slammed Lockie Ferguson’s first ball of the 48th over for a six, reigniting the hopes. But a direct throw from Martin Guptill in the next ball when Dhoni went for a second sealed the match for New Zealand. The former India captain did threaten to pull off a Houdini act, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Man of the match Matt Henry (3/37) and Trent Boult (2/42) engineered India’s stunning top-order collapse with some spectacular seam and swing bowling upfront. They rarely erred in their lines and hit just about the right lengths to force the Indian batsmen into mistakes. Some of the shot selections by the Indians too left a lot to be desired. Henry set the tone for New Zealand by dismissing the in-form Rohit Sharma. With five centuries in the tournament, Rohit held key to India’s chase on a tricky pitch, but he could last only four balls.

Virat Kohli missed a Boult delivery that swung back into him before pinging him on his front pad. Umpire Richard Illingworth upheld a vociferous appeal from the bowler but a shocked Kohli went for a review which showed the ball just about brushing the top of the bail. Next over Henry had a poking K L Rahul caught behind as the top three were back in the hut for a grand total of five with each of the batsmen having scored just one each.

Rishabh Pant (32) did bring out some fight to the middle but Dinesh Karthik, who took 21 balls to open his account, was out flashing at Henry with Jimmy Neesham taking a blinder of a catch at backward point off the last ball of the 10th over. The score read 24/4 which is the least productive first 10-over powerplay period this World Cup. The chase was effectively over at this stage.

Hardik Pandya and Rishabh Pant weren’t perhaps fitted to come so early in the innings and the shots they picked to get out for left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner (2/34) proved exactly that. Dhoni should have walked in early and when he batted a little more urgency could have helped. India had done exceedingly well to top the league but one bad day with the bat did them in.