World Cup 2019: Rain pushes semi-final into reserve day with New Zealand 211/5
This is what Old Trafford looked like for the last few hours on Tuesday. (AFP Image)

MANCHESTER: It was a day of slow runs, damp weather and a long wait. After a good couple of dry weeks, the dreaded rain returned to affect yet another match of the World Cup 2019. And it couldn’t have chosen a game bigger than the first semi-final between India and New Zealand at Old Trafford. New Zealand put on 211/5 on the board batting first before relentless rain ensured no further play was possible.

This means that the match now will be completed on Wednesday – the allocated reserve day for the first semi-final. Also, the match will pick up from where it stopped on Tuesday, meaning New Zealand will play out the remaining 3.5 overs before India begin their innings.

Incidentally, the round-robin game of the World Cup 2019 between India and New Zealand was also washed out, the game in Nottingham called off without the toss. On Tuesday in Manchester, with India having completed 46.1 overs, it began drizzling, which further picked up and transformed into heavy rainfall.

It might have been the big semi-final, but the narrative remained same – India’s pacers, a sluggish surface and New Zealand’s two most experienced batsmen bailing them out of trouble. Under heavy cloud cover, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah had the New Zealand batsmen struggling to score, but half-centuries from Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor held the innings together.

Both half-centuries arrived at interesting junctures – Williamson’s when New Zealand had crawled to register the slowest Powerplay of the World Cup and Taylor’s when India threatened to run away with advantage after getting Williamson’s wicket. Initially, Taylor had to grapple with the potent bowling attack that is India but looked a lot assured in the final passage of play.

Drama unfolded from ball one. Bhuvneshwar got the ball to move after pitching and it rapped Martin Guptill on the pads. Declared not out by the umpire, Virat Kohli went upstairs. But with the ball missing leg, India lost their review first ball. That however didn’t mean New Zealand had it easy. In fact, Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah were so tidy with the new ball that it took 17 balls for New Zealand to score their first run.

Guptill’s woeful form continued. Bumrah received extra bounce and the opener, poking outside off, edged to Kohli at second slip. For the sixth time, Williamson walked out inside five overs and was immediately tested by Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar’s pace and the overcast weather aiding them. There wasn’t much swing, but some movement off the surface. Williamson brought out his dabs to third man and fine leg, but India, with a short point, backward point and a gully had him working hard for runs.

A cover drive from Henry Nicholls brought the first boundary – in the eighth over. Nicholls struggled to get going against India’s frontline pacers but ticked along well against Ravindra Jadeja, whom he swept effectively to collect a boundary early. Nicholls survived an appeal but was done in by a turner from Jadeja which beat his defence. Off went the right lights to end Nicholls’ hard-working 28 off 51.

But Williamson did what he does best. Rotate the strike and keep the scoreboard moving. 27 for 1 after 10 meant New Zealand could not afford to waste too many overs and he cashed in on the rare loose deliveries bowled by India. Hardik Pandya’s lack of pace couple by a short of a length deliveries allowed Williamson to collect two boundaries, but from there, India tied them down remarkably. Yuzvendra Chahal conceded 28 off his first six overs, and with Pandya and Jadeja, gave New Zealand just 20 runs between over 19 and 27.

Williamson hoicked Chahal for the first New Zealand boundary in 81 balls. Taylor survived a couple of close LBW appeals and a few away spinners that swished past his off stump. Taylor’s first boundary was an edge past the wicketkeeper, but the next one was executed with a lot more confidence when he slapped Chahal towards deep midwicket. Slowly, but steadily, Taylor and Williamson worked their way to yet another half-century stand off 73 balls.

Jadeja’s last over is where Williamson decided to go for it. It was a mixed bag: a loft over extra cover for three, almost a slog sweep for a four, twice beaten. Next over, he tried to attack Chahal as well but perished. Chahal offered some flight and the ball dipped, gripped and turned, enough to result in a false shot from Williamson. Reaching for the ball, Williamson sliced it to Jadeja at backward point to deal New Zealand a body blow.

New Zealand had to wait for another five overs for their next boundary when James Neesham pulled towards midwicket. Pandya had worriedly left the ground due to what seemed to be a groin pull, but returned and had Neesham hole out at long-on. Taylor swatted a six off Chahal to raise his fifty off 73 balls, and along with Colin de Grandhomme pressed for acceleration.

The Taylor-de Grandhomme partnership had raced to 35 off 19 balls but Bhuvneshwar returned to break the partnership. After Taylor reviewed an LBW call to earn a reprieve, de Grandhomme, opting for a uppish cut, nicked to Dhoni. A comical overthrow which resulted in New Zealand converting a single into three was followed by a couple of singles before the interruption.

It rained heavily for almost two hours and just when conditions seemed to be improving, fresh spell of rain came pouring down again. After an inspection around 1810 local time, umpires Richard Illingworth, Richard Kettleborough made the call to push the match into the reserve day.

Brief Scores: New Zealand 211/5 (Ross Taylor 67*, Kane Williamson 67; Jasprit Bumrah 1/25) in 46.1 overs vs India