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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

India goes down fighting ! ~ well played Sir Jaddu bhai !!!

Millions are glum  ~ still to get over that lumpen feeling .. .. a loss in the Semi-finals of Cricket World Cup 2019 – the limited Overs match that was played in 2 days.  At knock-out stage, natural for a team to be losing .. .. well played Team India – having come up to this level and going down fighting, though it was a poor start.

Together – all 11 men contributing - the Black Caps  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. 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.

Heavy favourites coming into their World Cup 2019 semi-final after topping the league stage, India's campaign came to an end in a thriller at Old Trafford and captain Virat Kohli admitted New Zealand got through to the final because "they were far sharper when it came to the crunch moments." "It always feels disappointing when you've played such good cricket and then 45 minutes of bad cricket puts you out of the tournament," Kohli told the host broadcaster at the presentation. "It's difficult to accept, it's difficult to come to terms with, but look, New Zealand deserve it because they put enough pressure on us and they were far sharper when it came to the crunch moments." New Zealand finished fourth in the league stage, and had entered the semi-finals on the back of losses against Pakistan, Australia and England - but their bowling stepped up to dismiss India for 221 while defending 239.

Against Australia, New Zealand used Colin de Grandhomme with the new ball; Matt Henry had been dropped for Ish Sodhi. Here, first ball, Henry takes one away from the bat, Rohit pushes to point. On the third, not everything goes right for Henry, the line is good, around fifth stump, and it's on a good length, but the seam is all over the place, not cross, but wobble. But the ball reacts as if it had a perfect seam, it moves away, and Rohit, he of five World Cup 2019 hundreds, is leaving the crease. Comes Virat Kohli enters, a couple of balls later, he flicks in the air just near Guptill. Then Boult straightens another one - and Kohli falls over as he tries to flick away, the ball hits above the knee roll, rebounds up to his chest. Kohli isn't even sure where the ball is, but while he looks around, Richard Illingworth gives him out. He  reviews only to be  told it's umpires call. Kohli is gone.  KL Rahul too is consumed by Henry.

Rishabh Pant, the most famous absentee from the original 150 players at this World Cup, had come out at the fall of Kohli – then Dinesh Kartik walked in; he wasn't in the team when India were unbeaten early in the tournament - India  5/3 after four overs – two wicket keepers neither playing as keeper in the middle. Some time later -  Matt Henry and Trent Boult had reduced India to 24 for 4 in ten overs, with DK hanging out and getting caught brilliantly -  they were later 92 for 6 when Ravindra Jadeja joined MS Dhoni to revive the chase. Jadeja smashed a magnificent  59-ball 77, and while he was there, India looked like they would pull off a heist as he and Dhoni put on 116 runs for the seventh wicket. Jadeja was caught off Boult ; then  a brilliant Martin Guptill direct hit run out of Dhoni (50 off 72) finished India's hopes with nine balls remaining before they were dismissed for 221.

A magical opening stanza from man of the match Matt Henry (3-37) and Boult (2-42) with the new ball saw India's top order collapse spectacularly, and despite some wonderful hitting from Jadeja which had New Zealand nervous, the top qualifiers and 2011 champions depart early. It will rate as one of New Zealand's best and most significant victories, given they lost six of their previous seven World Cup semifinals including two at Old Trafford, to England in 1979 and Pakistan 20 years later.  They entered finals of 2015 but lost – now 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?

No point in blaming Kohli, Rohit, Rahul or Pant & Pandya who tried something, the old horse Dhoni whom many take to whipping whenever India loses. Let us learn to accept defeats !! .. .. then there is Sir Jaddu bhai - 77 off 59 coming down at No.8 in a World Cup semi-final at 92-6. 2/74 in 20 overs of bowling and a massive 41 runs saved in just 2 matches. Incredible catches irrespective of being in the XI. A direct-hit at the critics.  We only wish that team selection had been less baffling ! .. We can happily watch England playing Australia and hope that the genial Kiwis win their First World Cup in 2019. All the best to Kane Stuart Williamson and his men ..

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
10th July 2019

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