Kiwis fly to Lord’s, Kohli home; Jadeja, Dhoni fight back but India lose semi by 18 runs
India go home. New Zealand it is for Lord’s! A horrible start, a late flourish by Ravindra Jadeja and MS Dhoni, the lowest ever first powerplay total in any World Cup, the highest ever seventh-wicket partnership in any World Cup — the story was all India’s, but the end was all New Zealand’s.
Sudden death, death, death. Life, life and then death again, this one was not for the faint hearted. New Zealand won by 18 runs with India packing up for 221. MS Dhoni the finisher, in the last World Cup match of his career, failed to finish though he toiled hard in the middle as Jadeja launched his most audacious knock of the tournament to somehow get to the Lord’s dressing room where Kapil Dev had in 1983. After 77 runs, sadly Jadeja was still a broken heart as was Dhoni at 50 being run out when he dashed for victory somehow, anyhow.
But really, the impossibility was imposed, as skipper Virat Kohli admitted, in the first 45 minutes of the game, when the India horror show pushed the 17000-odd spectators at the Old Trafford into shock. The end of a great Indian run in the tournament seemed to have approached virtually before the beginning, putting New Zealand on the road to Lord’s and India back home in nothing but abject despair of an unexplained, unfathomed and unexpected plummet.
Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul shared an unenvious commonality of walking back with just one run each. After five centuries, Sharma’s stay in the middle was the shortest when he was required to be there for the longest. Kohli, trapped by Boult, could not save himself despite a referral. KL Rahul got caught in a double mind, finally edging it away to the first slip when some lifesaving surgery was needed from his bat.
Staring at the scoreboard showing 5/3, the silence was so intense that one could almost hear Kohli’s heart palpitating in panic. After being table toppers, losing just one game out of nine, getting to the top of the runs and bowling tables, India went out like the light does in Delhi’s long and intense summer.
People were left asking who or what could have been more fickle than England’s weather, the answer being made more than obvious by the Men in Blue and their opening show, or should one say the lack of it, in the middle.
From extra-ordinary to ordinary to less than ordinary – it just took three overs, inside an hour and a fall so vertical that the public around the middle started getting vertigo. Dinesh Karthik, meanwhile, got snapped by a flashy splashy catch at backward point to put the life support monitors on. It didn’t matter that the ball would have otherwise raced to the boundary.
What mattered was India’s dream of a Lord’s dressing room presence on July 14 lay ripped – till of course Ravindra Jadeja came along to insert life in the coffin. India recorded the worst first powerplay figures of the World Cup – four wickets, 49 dot balls, 24 runs and a job totally undone after 35 days of ticking all the boxes, self-belief, fitness, performance and professionalism that Kohli talked about.
New Zealand’s 27/3 earlier in the innings paled into insignificance as the clouds started gathering over the stadium with prayers of a washout gaining chant, much like they did in the Joburg Final of 2003 and the Sydney semi-final in 2015.
Yes, cricket comes with glorious uncertainties but this one stretched the game’s imagination a wee bit more than the faintest one could have. The 50-4 on board showed up the 17th over and run rate that could not have surpassed the exit rate of the Big Three of Indian cricket on a grey Manchester morning living on the singular brightness of the floodlights at noon.
From 5/3 to 221/10, the fightback was on an individual blade which kept flirting with hope for a long time before getting extinguished. A 116-run partnership at No 7 was the shining penny in the thoughts but once Jadeja walked at 77, it was all towards home for India.
Jadeja who was playing only his third game in this tournament, was the fable of the day. He showed his class as much as he did his reserve in the high-pressure situation soaking in the difficult moments with elan and balance all at the same time. Kohli later spoke of Jadeja’s extraordinary class in extraordinary circumstances as did Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson who pointed out how big a task Jadeja had undertaken by batting magnificently so late in the innings and under extreme pressure to put on board more runs than anyone in both the teams through this match.
Widely called India’s bright future, Rishabh Pant could not muster the required maturity or patience, much like his senior Hardik Pandya who could not light even a glimmer of hope once the first three went uncharacteristically. When India were 71, the young Pant could no longer wait to play the big shot and fell to William Santner with de Grandhomme grabbing his fall of patience near the boundary when he was 32.
The debris at the stumps, meanwhile, kept mounting steadily with no checks or balances by the Indian batsmen. Pandya did save some minutes on the fall line but he too fell to a high in the air shot off Santner bringing India to an unassailable 92/6 situation with no established batsmen left in the bag and the run rate mounting. Santner’s best spell of the World Cup couldn’t have come on a better occasion though his colleague Matt Henry bagged the Player of the Match award.
A word here on the beauties that were bowled by the Kiwi bowlers who kept their wits as beautifully as they did their line, length and precision bowling, not allowing any of the Indian bats to drive even a single ball till well into the late 30 overs. With his brilliant bowling, Smith resembled Woakes, bringing in the swing which Bhuvneshwar could not. Yes, the conditions were overcast but the Indian blade has the navigational capabilities to steer out of the mess and the moisture. Boult stuck to regimen bowling to tap into the Indian panic room and Santner did the rest in a match that turned out to be the last one for the legend of the game MS Dhoni.
May be Sanjay Manjrekar will have something to fill up the stunned silence that India have left the nation in. Something about New Zealand, may be? If not, this silence will at least give the right atmosphere for Team India to reflect on what went wrong, why and how it should not have, at least not the way it did. Yes, shit happens, and how!
Thursday, 11 July 2019 | PNS | Old Trafford (Manchester)
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