by Sudipta Biswas

India’s commanding display of cricket in one league match to another has finally been prevented by resurgent New Zealand. India’s league stage campaign had lingered with one question even though they finished on top of the table. What would happen if the top order fails in a crucial game?

On Wednesday, the same question came back to haunt India as the stars – Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul – succumbed to brilliant bowling by the Black Caps when it mattered the most at a gloomy Old Trafford. India were knocked out of semifinal for second straight times while New Zealand marched to the final for second consecutive times.

The reason behind India’s heartbreaking defeat is experienced New Zealand pacers’ superb bowling and use of the conditions. With the cloud cover was hanging over the Old Trafford, Indian batsmen had to cope with a tough situation. In front of the moving ball and skilled fast bowlers, India’s renowned top 3 were clearly struggling and Kane Williamson had no hesitation about carrying on with his fast bowlers – Trent Boult and Matt Henry from either end- from the word go. Indian batsmen fell in the trap in front of swinging deliveries of Boult and Henry.

Ravindra Jadeja’s heroic a big plus for India

A late resurgence steered by Ravindra Jadeja and MS Dhoni’s 116 runs partnership threatened New Zealand as a lopsided match turned into a thriller which India lost by 18 runs. From 24 for 4 in 10 overs to finish 221 all-out with three balls remaining in the match earned India the appreciation from the Black Cap skipper Kane Williamson.

 

 

 

“India showed why they are a world-class side when they took it deep through MS (Dhoni) and Jadeja. Our character was tested and we came out on top,” Williamson said after entering into their second consecutive World Cup final.

After top order collapsed India found an unlikely hero in Ravindra Jadeja who put the pressure back on New Zealand and took India to the doorstep of victory but failed to win the game after he mishit Boult’s delivery that was caught by Williamson.

Nevertheless, this loss after a superb performance in the league stage will definitely not give captain Virat Kohli a good feeling. It may even haunt him for not winning the World Cup after playing with a well-balanced squad. However, he kept his emotion in check and put up a brave front at the post-match press conference, saying, “We’re sad but not devastated.” But he also said that “45 minutes of  bad cricket undid the great work the team had done at the World Cup.”

Nobody expected that India would fall short while chasing 240 runs target in a World Cup where 300 is being considered a par score. However, in a rain halted match moisture, slow pitch and New Zealand’s ability to adapt to the conditions better than their oppositions helped them to tame India

Top-class seam bowling, some poor shot selections and bad luck made a way for India’s exit from the tournament.

On a tricky pitch, India required either opener Rohit or captain Kohli to stay back at the crease to guide the chase. But, as they were sent back in the hut by the third over KL Rahul and Dinesh Karthik joined them soon to make it 24 for 4 by the 10th over.

Young Rishabh Pant and all-rounder Hardik Pandya gave India ray of hope for a while as they kept rotating the strike. But when they seemed settled in and looked promising they threw their wickets targeting the wrong bowler- Micthell Santner. Pant and Hardik Pandya, who are playing their first World Cup, missed the absence of guidance of a senior player. Under tremendous pressure, they thought about playing big shots to release the stress but ended up losing their wickets.

Outsmarted by a technically and tactically superior opponent

Going by the cricketing sense it was all over for India, given the fact that India’s middle order and lower middle order have been patchy throughout the tournament. But Jadeja, who bowled economically and fielded brilliantly, put up a brave fight playing his greatest knock in an India shirt to raise India’s hopes smashing sixes and fours with MS Dhoni kept supporting him from the other end.

Jadeja and Dhoni gave India the confidence that they can claim an epic comeback win, though the required run rate was rocketing. They have a proven track record, so fans put the money on them.

With 37 required off 18 balls, and Jadeja on the charge, Trent Boult came to bowl his final over. It was an important over for both India and New Zealand as it could tilt the match towards anyone. The decisive battle between Jadeja and Boult was won by the latter.

 

 

The Kiwi fast bowler, who is known for his trickeries, has already won the day with his accuracy and in his 10th over he gave his side the prized scalp of Jadeja as the Indian batsman tried to dispatch him into the stand. It was a mishit, a skier, which landed in the safe hands of skipper Williamson.

India fans across the world left stunned. However, they accepted that the better team, who is yet to taste the success of a World Cup victory, won today after both teams put up a great fight.

The mighty Indians, who were the No.1 ranked ODI team till yesterday, were supposed to win and maybe lift the crown jewel too. But they were outsmarted by a technically and tactically superior opponent.

Before the match begun Boult was being portrayed as India’s the main threat and he lived up the expectations. But New Zealand found a great companion of Boult in paceman Matt Henry whose wicket-wicket haul in the Powerplay proved to be crucial.

So, praise New Zealand for this great win and hope they clinch the title too. India did their best and proved why they are still the best side in the world. Knockout game is not only about potential and skills, it is also about luck. It was a well fought game and team that held the nerves emerged winners.

Be respectful to your heroes who will vie for the coveted title in 2023 World Cup in India. Let them begin the rebuilding process. Maybe another four-year wait brings you the happiness of watching cricket back. For the time being, enjoy the gentlemen’s game cricket.

 


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