Battle-hardened India await final test
Mohammed Shami provided the bowling magic against New Zealand as hosts ease into World Cup decider
Mumbai — Unbeaten India passed their first real test in the World Cup in the semifinal against New Zealand on Wednesday and the hosts will hope the win over their bogey team will make them battle-hardened for the final.
India arrived at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, where they lifted their second and last World Cup trophy in 2011, looking invincible, winning all nine round-robin matches without any stiff challenge, including a four-wicket win over New Zealand.
But then the Black Caps had ended India’s strong run at the same stage of the 2019 edition while Kane Williamson’s team also beat them in the inaugural World Test Championship final two years ago.
India exited the 2015 edition of the 50-over World Cup at the semifinal stage with a defeat to Australia.
“Today being the semifinals, I wouldn’t say there was no pressure,” India captain Rohit Sharma said, adding that the team wanted to treat the match as just another round-robin game.
“Whenever you play the game, there is always pressure, and obviously, semifinal adds a bit of extra there. But I think the guys were doing the job.”
As Daryl Mitchell and Williamson grew in confidence in their third-wicket stand of 181 during New Zealand’s chase of 398, the stadium went silent, while millions of fans across the country probably wondered if the Black Caps would be the cause of another heartbreak for India.
“It was important to stay calm. At one point, the crowd went absolutely silent, that’s the nature of the game,” Sharma said.
“But we knew that we had to pull something up from our sleeves and need some magic, either a good catch or a run out or maybe a magic delivery.”
Fast bowler Mohammed Shami provided that touch of magic with 7/57, the best figures by an Indian in an one-day international and also his third five-wicket haul in the tournament, taking him to the top of the wicket-takers’ list with 23.
India looked uncharacteristically sloppy in the field against New Zealand, with Shami dropping a fairly simple catch off Williamson, Ravindra Jadeja giving away overthrows and the hosts also muddling up run out opportunities.
Sharma will be hoping his team leave the mistakes behind as they head to Ahmedabad for Sunday’s final.
“We knew there would be pressure on us at some stage. We just had to stay collected. That’s what we did. We were very calm even though we were sloppy in the field,” Sharma said.
“But that can happen. We’ve got nine perfect games on the field. So these things are bound to happen. But I’m glad we could get the job done in the end.”
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