Jasprit Bumrah had spoken about the wickets slowing down as the 2019 World Cup moved towards the business end and it was evident during the first semi-final at the Old Trafford as the Indian bowlers made full use of the conditions after Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson won the toss and decided to bat first.
Ross Taylor was the only bright spot for New Zealand as he hit a 90-ball 74 before being run out by a direct hit from Ravindra Jadeja in the 48th over. Jadeja then followed it up with a brilliant catch off the first ball of the next over from Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3/43) as Tom Latham had to walk off for 10. Earlier, Williamson also played his hand to hit a 95-ball 67 on Tuesday as former cricketers criticized the slowness of the pitch for the crucial encounter.
Slower bouncers, cutters and the knuckle balls ruled the roost as the Indian bowlers showed why they are considered one of the best in world cricket at present. Even as the team management surprised many by deciding to drop the in-form Mohammad Shami, the trio of Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar and all-rounder Hardik Pandya showed that they were up for the challenge.
Left-arm spinner Jadeja ensured that the foot was on the pedal even in the middle overs after the Kiwi batsmen looked to play off the new ball and finished the powerplay with the score on 27/1. The fate didn”t change much after the initial burst from the Indian bowlers as the duo of Henry Nicholls and Kane Williamson struggled to adapt to the slowness of the wicket after Bumrah sent back Martin Guptill for just 1, caught brilliantly by skipper Virat Kohli in the slip cordon.
Such was the struggle of the Kiwi openers that the first run in the innings came in the 3rd over of the innings, the 17th ball to be more specific. And as they say, morning did show the day as it was a struggle for the New Zealand batsmen right through. In fact, even the in-form Williamson looked a pale shadow of his natural self as he looked to dig in and score some runs for his bowlers to defend.
While Nicholls did all the hardwork, he was dismissed in the 19th over by one from Jadeja that turned just enough to beat the edge of the bat. The 51-ball 28 was just not the knock he would have wanted to play after digging in deep. But it wasn”t any easier for Ross Taylor either as he looked to have hit a rut. In fact, at one stage he wasn”t even able to pick the singles. But the two did try their best to spend as much time in the middle to stretch the partnership and keep wickets in the bag.
Taylor was given a half-life on 22 as M.S. Dhoni failed to latch onto one that dropped almost in front of his gloves off Bumrah. A front leap instead of one sideways could have seen him pick that up. Having picked another fifty in the tournament, Williamson was finally dismissed against the run of play by Chahal as one seemed to grip just enough to have the skipper play it early. The literal lob was gobbled up by Jadeja behind point as Williamson walked back for a 95-ball 67 in the 36th over.
The move to have Jimmy Neesham come in as a pinch-hitter didn”t work any wonders as he managed just 12 off 18 balls. Taylor continued his struggle and was also saved by DRS after the umpire gave him out on 56. While rain then cut short the innings on Tuesday, the Kiwis managed to score 28 runs off the remaining 23 balls for the loss of three wickets on Wednesday. 84 runs came off the last 10 overs.
Brief Scores: New Zealand: 239/8 (Taylor 74; Bhuvneshwar 3/43) vs India