Throwback to the day which broke a billion hearts: India vs New Zealand World Cup 2019 semi-final

It wasn’t the day for the Blue. It was the BlackCaps' moment of glory.

Advertisement

That’s the game of cricket. Like life, full of unpredictable ups and downs. India were favourites, but the dark-horse ensnarled them.

If you like the little this-day-that-year memories and you also happen to be a New Zealand cricket supporter, today’s the day for you. If you’re an Indian cricket fanatic instead, let’s say not every day is your day. It was this day last year that the Black Caps stunned the Men in Blue at Manchester’s Old Trafford to bring a red-hot winning streak to a somberly gelid end.

It was the mighty World Cup and it doesn’t get any bigger. India had a prolific run before being pitched against the Kiwis in the penultimate clash of the tournament. Scripting seven wins, a solitary loss against the hosts England, and a washed-out game versus New Zealand earlier, India stood out and cruised into the semi-finals finishing as the table-toppers. The Kiwis hung by a thread, made a hat trick of losses, relied on the net run rate, and managed a foot inside a barely ajarred door.

Cut to the semi-final, all that happened in the league was history. Face-off. The ultimate eliminator. Win- head to Lord’s for the summit clash; Lose- pack your bags and board the flight back home. New Zealand won the toss and skipper Williamson chose to bat being aware that their adversary’s favourite breakfast is chasing, perhaps, Kiwis wanted to rely on the runs-on-the board template.

Bowlers had a nice outing. Bhuvi and Bumrah tested while Jadeja and Chahal chipped in. India contained New Zealand to an innocuous 239- a score India could chase with eyes closed on nine occasions out of ten. The target was trickily modest, but not big by any stretch of the imagination. A nerve-sapping clash and rain is a detestable combination. But who controls the weather? The match was spread over 28 hours as it was pushed to the reserve day.

India was over-reliant on their top-order batsmen

Starting afresh the next day, a celebrated unit of Rohit, Rahul, Kohli, Dhoni, and Jadeja looked towards 239. Must’ve looked doable to them as it did to a billion others praying for them. India’s only issue and I must say perennial issue, was its over-reliance on the top. As the openers came out, in what was a classic case of being doomed, waiting for them was some terrific-new-ball bowling, top-class fielding, and a treacherously dual paced wicket.

All they bowled were 19 deliveries and the Kiwi pace battery’s jolt to India’s top troika was more ravaging than the Great Chilean Earthquake. 1, 1, and 1, Rohit, Rahul, and Kohli made scores similar to their ICC rankings and left India dislocated at 5 for 3.

The rumbustious Indian camp was melancholically befuddled and even before the thought of saving the sinking ship could have been processed by the cognitive faculties of the brain, India was destroyed as Dinesh Karthik tasted dust credit to a catch for the ages by Neesham at backward point. Just 6.5 overs in the game, the scorecard read 24 for 4.

The carnage was not seeming to stop. Boult and Henry were bowling as if every swinging delivery was adding a million dollars in their bank accounts. A negligible spark was ignited by two young men- Pant and Pandya- as they stitched a 47-run stand.

The 239 looked light-years away as Pant waived off a hero-becoming chance by depositing a suicidal hoik into the hands of Colin de Grandhomme. Pandya took misplaced inspiration from Pant and miscued a slog to mark a full stop on his knock as well. India was in dire straits at 92 for 6.

Dhoni-Jadeja’s 116-run stand became the lighthouse to the lost ship

Standing at the crease was a saviour of India, a man not just the wicket-keeper, but also the faith-keeper of India- MS Dhoni. The fall of Pandya brought in Jadeja, who probably entered with some rebellious idea. On a track where the cream batsmen were left dumbfounded, a batsman barely even regarded as one started middling the cherry to perfection. Staying calm at the other end, “let Jadeja do the talking” said Dhoni.

Jadeja lofted, pulled, drove, and cut as if his life relied on this inning. He had luck favouring his way as well, but it only favours the brave. Dhoni-Jadeja’s 116-run stand became the lighthouse to the lost ship and India’s hope lying like a cadaver started coming to life. Jadeja’s eventful knock enthused India but came to an end as he towered one up in the air and Williamson made no mistake. His heroic 77 off 59 came to an end, but the line was not crossed.

Dhoni was still standing and so were the hopes of Indians. India was 31 away from glory and here was a man who did this all his life- finishing games for India. Dhoni smoked a six on the first of 48th and a game that looked India lost started to look like India’s game to lose. The moment of game-changing brilliance came two balls later as Martin Guptill’s rocket throw broke the stumps. Umpire went upstairs, the hearts were pumping so fast that you could almost hear the beats.

Broken. Shattered. Fell apart. Dhoni was short by just an inch. In a game that is played over hectares, an inch made the difference. There the moment was seized. Guptill’s throw not just dismissed MS, but also threw the hopes of India in the trash bin. A billion hearts were broken, bugles were muted, and shock took the driving seat. It was the end.

That’s the game of cricket– like life– is full of unpredictable ups and downs. India were favourites, but the dark-horse ensnarled them. It wasn’t the day for the Blues. It was the Black Caps’ moment of glory.