India Defeated In A Rain Affected World Cup Semi Final Against New Zeland At Old Trafford

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New Delhi: Long after the dust had settled, a smattering of men and women in blue jerseys could be seen in the different corners of Old Trafford, staring vacantly into space, surrounded by a sea of empty bucket seats.

The other Old Trafford -- the football stadium next door -- is often referred to as the “theatre of dreams”, but for the many thousand travelling Indian fans from across the world, this stadium was the setting of a two-day nightmare. There were brief moments when it seemed their side might tide over, but in the end, there was heartbreak.

India’s stirring World Cup campaign eventually ended in the final over of the semi-final against New Zealand – kept alive by the innings of his life from Ravindra Jadeja and sheet-anchor MS Dhoni. But, in reality, the show was over a whole lot earlier, when India’s heavy-scoring top order of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and captain Virat Kohli returned to the pavilion, each for a personal score of 1, leaving the team reeling at 5 for 3 in the fourth over.

By the time it was 24 for four in the 10th, what had appeared to be an eminently gettable target of 240, even in overcast conditions, was a bridge too far. The table-topping Indians were all but grounded; the stuttering Kiwis destined to fly into Sunday’s final at Lord’s.

 “We’re all feeling dejected because we played well in this tournament - even in the first half of this match. But we experienced 45 minutes of bad cricket, and that put us out of the World Cup,” Kohli said later, underscoring the many inglorious uncertainties of the glorious game.

But there was more to the Indian defeat than a wicked twist of fate. Questions were asked even when the squad was first announced about whether a side that had traded pedigreed batsmen for utility players would be able to survive the English summer. There was one scare when the top-order collapsed against Afghanistan midway through the tournament. On Wednesday, on a lively track, fiery opening spells by Trent Boult and Matt Henry made those fears a brutal reality.

Since persistent rain on Tuesday pushed the semi-final into its reserve day, New Zealand resumed at an overnight score of 211 for five. Thanks to Jadeja’s heroics on the field – a direct-hit run-out and a soaring catch on the ropes – they added only 28 runs from the remaining 23 balls in their innings, setting the stage for India’s chase.

Sharma, with 647 runs in the tournament when he stepped in to bat, was the first to go, fiddling with a Matt Henry delivery that straightened so very late. Next over, Trent Boult set up danger man Kohli with a delivery that came in from outside off-stump and then trapped him LBW with one that pitched in line. A disbelieving Kohli threw his bat in the air as he walked back, only to be followed soon after by Rahul, who nicked Henry three deliveries later.

After a few starts and stops, Dhoni and Jadeja came together at 92-6 for what could’ve already been considered a lost cause. There were pokes and blocks at Dhoni’s end, and cuts and drives at Jadeja’s in the course of a 116-run stand that settled nerves before reviving hopes. At 203-6 after 47 overs, with 37 needed of 18 balls, it suddenly seemed as if the unthinkable might happen.

“We all felt in the change room that Jadeja could close this match out,” said Kohli at the press conference, speaking about an innings studded with four sixes and as many fours.

But it was all over in a blur of hands and legs. Jadeja mistimed a hoick off Boult; and Dhoni, just as he was changing gears, fell millimetres short of a direct hit by Martin Guptill.

India were done. “Difficult to take it,” Kohli admitted later, “but New Zealand deserve it,” he added graciously.

 

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