It didn’t play out to be the way majority of Cricket enthusiasts and pundits thought it would but then that’s the beauty of the game, no matter what the populist opinions are, the team who plays better Cricket on the day and adapts to the playing conditions better goes onto win the match. It was a one day international (ODI) match which wasn’t true to its name as it was played over the course of two days and it was New Zealand(NZ) who endured. India having played brilliantly through the tournament having topped the league stages didn’t seem to have the right answers when it mattered the most.
It was a much anticipated clash between the two sides whose league stage match was a wash out . Rain did play its part in this match as well by taking the match into the reserve day. Indian bowlers bowled in the right areas and didn’t let the Kiwis score freely. Once again it was Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor who came to the rescue with a 65 run stand. They just couldn’t score freely owing to the good bowling by Team India which was ably supported in the field. They struggled to time the ball but still didn’t throw away their wickets. As it later turned out they assessed the conditions wonderfully well and played accordingly. Their strike rates were on the slower side but in the context of what transpired those were match winning knocks in their own right. Rain forced the match into the reserve day and after the first day’s play India was on top and was all set to chase the target down on the second day. NZ ended up with 239-8 in 50 overs and it was a sort of total that was comfortably within India’s reach.
NZ team however had their own plans and they executed them to perfection. A wonderful opening spell by Trent Boult and Matt Henry rocked India’s top order and India was reduced to 5 for the loss of 3 wickets in the 4th over. It was a perfect situation for Dhoni to walk in and resurrect the Indian batting in his own unique way. But strangely Dinesh Karthik walked out to bat at no.5 who was picked to play at no.7. After he got out Hardik Pandya came at no.6 ahead of Dhoni which was quite baffling. One possible explanation for this batting order could be that Pant and Pandya would counter-attack and bring some semblance to the run chase. But that didn’t happen either. NZ bowlers bowled in the right channels and didn’t let them score freely. They were involved in a 47 run partnership and it seemed as if the exuberance of youth would guide India home just before Pant played a reckless shot and literally gifted his wicket to Santner. Pandya too got out to Santner as he looked to hit him for a six. It wasn’t what the situation demanded. All the Indian hopes were once again on Dhoni to pull off a heist and take India to the finals. He in his trademark style tried his best by taking the game deep along with Ravindra Jadeja. They stitched together a 116 run partnership to keep India in the game before Jadeja got out. Dhoni was run out by a brilliant direct hit by Guptill and with that India’s hopes of reaching the final also faded away.
It’s indeed a game of small margins and India was on the wrong side of it with Dhoni’s run out. NZ played better Cricket over the course of two days and deserved to win. That fierce opening spell swung the match big time in their favour. Virat Kohli summed it up nicely after the match that having played wonderfully well in the entire tournament still it was those 45 minutes that costed them dearly and knocked them out of the World Cup. One can never take things for granted in this game of Cricket. The team who respects the conditions and persists eventually wins. NZ struck when it mattered the most. They knocked off the top heavy Indian batting line-up, kept piling up the pressure on the middle order and with some sheer brilliance in the field went onto win the match by 18 runs. Although it was a heartbreak for Indian fans but for a true Cricket lover it was an exceptional match which again showcased the beauty of this great game of Cricket in which the underdogs trumped the all mighty Team India.