Dhoni, Jadeja fight not enough; New Zealand enter second straight World Cup final

MANCHESTER: India have been eliminated from the 2019 World Cup after their robust run in the tournament came to a screeching halt with an 18-run defeat against New Zealand in the first semi-final, spread over 28 hours and 24 minutes. Under grey skies, New Zealand pacers shredded India’s strong batting line-up, reducing them to 5/3 before an inspiring century-plus partnership between Ravindra Jadeja and MS Dhoni put them on the brink of victory. ALSO READ: Williamson, Taylor take New Zealand to 239/8

Jadeja and Dhoni batted out 17.2 overs to bring India within striking distance of glory, but Trent Boult’s dismissal of the allrounder and Martin Guptill’s direct-hit run-out of Dhoni in the penultimate over served deal-breaker. New Zealand have booked a date at the Lord’s final on Sunday, where they’ll play a second consecutive World Cup final against either England or Australia. ALSO READ: Rain forces India-New Zealand semi-final into reserve day

The law of averages is a considered to be a strong factor in cricket. And in the semifinal, it hit India’s batting. In a rare top-order failure, India lost Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli for a combined three runs. The last time Rohit and Kohli were dismissed for a single-digit score in the same innings was the Champions Trophy final in 2017. Everyone knows what happened.

Everything was eerily similar to June 17, 2017. No one gave New Zealand a chance, just like Pakistan weren’t given any. On Wednesday – the reserve day for the semi-final mind you, New Zealand’s bowlers were all over India’s top order, for a good 45 minutes, where the damage inflicted proved enough for India to overcome. Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya weathered the storm adding 47 off 77 balls, but questionable shot selections from either ended the fight.

New Zealand may not have put enough for the board, but those cursing them for scoring slow, realised just how important Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor’s knocks were. No one from India hung around for long, except Dhoni and Jadeja, who also put on the highest seventh-wicket partnership in the history of World Cup.

Ravindra Jadeja and MS Dhoni added 116 off 112 for the seventh wicket. (AFP Image)

Defending 240, New Zealand were on the money. Matt Henry had Rohit nicking to Latham in the second over. Two overs later, Kohli walked across the stumps a bit too much and was given out LBW, a review not able to save him. As for Rahul, the long, lingering issue of playing a good length delivery had him poking away and edging. Dinesh Karthik took 21 balls to score his first runs – a boundary but his painstaking innings was snapped courtesy a stunning one-handed screamer from James Neesham at point.

Pant and Pandya did the right thing – played out Boult, Henry. Pant, on 17, was put down by Neesham off the first ball from Lockie Ferguson but gained in confidence with a few crisp boundaries. With India already behind the asking rate, Mitchell Santner’s introduction added to their woes, who gave away just five runs in his first five overs. His precession was rewarded when Pant and Pandya slog swept him and holed out.

Dhoni and Jadeja, the last two recognised batsmen were tied down initially. India went more than 12 overs without a boundary before the deadlock was broken by Jadeja advancing to Neesham and lofting him for India’s first six. The crowd, which had been forced into a mournful silence received a second wind as Jadeja collected a boundary each of Henry, Ferguson and Santner. A six over cow corner off Santner had them up on their feet again.

For a change, Dhoni’s 29 off 55 was put at the backburner with Jadeja’s entertainment. After the 50-partnership was raised between the two, Jadeja scampered for a double to bring up his fifty, followed by his customary bat swing celebration and a little message pointed towards the commentary box.

With 62 needed off 36, Jadeja gave himself room and drilled Ferguson down the ground. With a dab to fine leg, the 100 partnership was up and India had returned from the dead. But New Zealand applied the squeeze nicely in the last five overs. Jadeja top edged Boult to lob a simple catch to Kane Williamson. Dhoni cut a six off Lockie Ferguson and followed it with an attempt to sprint for a second run. Martin Guptill’s direct hit caught Dhoni half-an-inch behind the crease which ended his final World Cup innings for 50.

New Zealand’s score of 239/8 proved just about enough. Earlier, as the skies cleared to bring out a sunny Wednesday in Old Trafford, New Zealand could add just 28 runs to their overnight score of 211 and lost three wickets. On Tuesday, under heavy cloud cover, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah had the New Zealand batsmen struggling to score, but half-centuries from Williamson and 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.

Kane Williamson once again anchored New Zealand. (AFP Image)

Drama unfolded from ball one. Bhuvneshwar got the ball to move after pitching and it rapped Guptill on the pads. Declared not out by the umpire, 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. 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 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.

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. 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’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 massive blow.

New Zealand had to wait for another five overs for their next boundary when 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 rain ensured no further play was possible on Tuesday.

Brief scores: New Zealand 239/8 (Ross Taylor 74, Kane Williamson 67; Bhuvneshwar Kumar 3/43) beat India 221 all out in 49.3 overs (Ravindra Jadeja 77, MS Dhoni 50; Matt Henry 3-37) by 18 runs