Manchester miracle! Black Caps into World Cup final

Radio Sport, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thursday, 11 July 2019, 9:27AM
The Black Caps scored a major upset against India. (Photo / Photosport)

Matt Henry screamed in elation, veins bulging out of his neck. Trent Boult pumped his fist, barely able to control his flailing limbs. Jimmy Neesham ran around aimlessly, stunned by his own brilliance.

Kane Williamson smiled softly, slowly realising the cricketing history that was unfolding in front of him.

Together, they had produced the magical moments that inspired one of New Zealand cricket's greatest feats.

Together – all 11 men contributing - the Black Caps had masterminded a phenomenal victory, stunning India by 18 runs to progress into their second straight World Cup final.

It was an incredible performance – utterly sensational, in fact – and one that left India shellshocked.

This was not how their World Cup was meant to end. Not here. Not like this.

It certainly wasn't in the script when the pulsating semifinal resumed on its second day, with the Black Caps returning after day one's rain at 211-5, with 23 balls left in their innings.

It didn't look any more likely after they had grated their way to 239-8. Surely, 240 – even on a pitch which looked difficult to bat on – wouldn't scare the vaunted Indian top order.

‌19 balls later, the Black Caps had given them the shock of their lives.

Rohit Sharma – he of the most centuries ever hit in a World Cup, and three on the trot – lasted just seven balls, feathering an edge from Henry through to Tom Latham.

Virat Kohli – only the best ODI batsman there's ever been – lasted just six, trapped lbw by Boult, and flipping his bat in disgust when his review returned the three-letter verdict he desperately dreaded.

Add in the wicket of KL Rahul – caught in two minds from a Henry delivery, offering an edge to a sprawling Latham – and India had been rocked.

They were at 5-3, and their scorecard read 1, 1, 1.

India were in the midst of a serious emergency.

Dinesh Karthik's attempts to put out the fire saw him take 21 balls to get off the mark, but he only managed to fan the flames, as Neesham produced one of the great World Cup catches to extend the New Zealand onslaught. Diving low to his left, Neesham plucked the ball with one hand, inches from the ground, and India, amazingly, were 24-4 after 10 overs.

The Black Caps' plan was being executed to perfection. Their bowling lengths were excellent – not too full, leading to some movement off the seam – and even as India attempted a rebuild, their task grew tougher.

Mitchell Santner produced a superb first spell, first restricting, then severely harming India's slow accumulation. Rishabh Pant (32 off 56 balls) picked out Colin de Grandhomme on the deep mid-wicket boundary, while Hardik Pandya (32 off 62) skied a sweep to Williamson, who, furiously backpedalling, calmly clutched a catch above his head.

Santner had 6-2-7-2, India were 92-6 after 30.3 overs, and down to their last hope – the pairing of MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja.

It was a slim hope, but ball by ball, they piled the pressure back on New Zealand, turning what looked like a thrashing into an absolute thriller.

Jadeja, who hadn't even played at the World Cup until last week, played the innings of his life, blasting 77 from 59 balls. Dhoni, attempting to be calculating as ever, just fed him the strike, ensuring India had a chance going into the final overs.

The pair produced a World Cup record stand for the seventh wicket, adding 116, and their equation looked more realistic by the over – from 90 required off 10 overs, to 52 off five, to 42 off four.

Jadeja was peppering the stands with sixes, though several shots were landing agonisingly short of fielders, as they prepared one final onslaught.

In response, as the pressure grew, Williamson brought back Boult and Henry, backing them to perform in a crucial situation.

Boult delivered.

Jadeja skied a delivery to Williamson, who took another safe catch, but Dhoni was still there, and after slicing Lockie Ferguson for six over point, India still had hope, needing 25 from 10 balls.

In came Ferguson once again. A short ball was fired in, with Dhoni slapping it away behind square leg. Desperate to run two, he charged back to the striker's end, as Martin Guptill, sprinting in from the boundary with one stump to aim up, picked up, and fired.

The bails flew. The stumps flashed. Dhoni's innings was over, and so was India's World Cup.

Four years on, the Black Caps have an opportunity to right the wrongs from that day at the MCG. Will it be England awaiting at Lord's in this year's final? Or will a re-match with Australia provide an opportunity for sweet revenge?

At this point, it doesn't matter - the Black Caps are in another World Cup final.

And they deserve nothing less.


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