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ICC World Cup: India beat resilient New Zealand in semifinal by 70 runs

A little over 51 million viewers tuned in on Hotstar’s streaming service as Virat Kohli neared his hundred. When he got there, with a typically hard-run brace, the crowd lost its collective mind. But, Kohli knew exactly what to do: he bowed down to Sachin Tendulkar in the stands, whose record of 49 ODI centuries he had crossed, blew three kisses to Anushka Sharma, his wife, and accepted a mid-pitch hug from Kane Williamson.

Kohli had hit the trifecta: achieving something even the best in his trade could not do, the love and support of a good woman and the respect and admiration of his peers. Eventually, Kohli would be dismissed for 117, off 113 balls, but in the process, he had scored more runs in a single edition of the tournament than anyone else.

If Kohli’s century was pure sentiment, Shreyas Iyer’s three-figure essay was an exercise in temperament and clinical execution. Kohli’s effort had taken time, but he played the role that the team expected of him, allowing others to take a few chances. And Shreyas did, but not one of those was outlandish. Rather, he played the good cricket shots to deliveries that merited them and got the best results. Shreyas made 105 from 70 balls, tonking eight massive sixes and only half as many fours.

The two centuries had headlined India’s innings, but they were set up, once again, by Rohit Sharma’s selflessness at the top of the order. On a pitch that was widely expected to be on the slower side and aid spin, but ended up being a batting beauty, Rohit went hard once again. His ability to take boundaries off perfectly good deliveries ensured that New Zealand’s bowlers were put off their rhythm.

In the middle of all this action, Shubman Gill put together an accomplished 79 before cramp or a leg injury forced him off the field. He would return at the end to add one run to his tally and this combined effort ensured India had 397 on the board.

This Indian bowling attack has wrecked opposition batting line-ups through the series, being the force that powered nine wins in as many games.

But, if they thought that New Zealand were going to do a Sri Lanka or South Africa and simply implode in the face of a gargantuan target, they had another thing coming. As history tells us, New Zealand don’t know how to give up on matches, especially at the business end of a tournament.

It was no different on the day. Mohammad Shami picked up Devon Conway with his first delivery, and accounted for Rachin Ravindra, the other opener, in his next over, pegging New Zealand back to 39 for 2.


This brought together Kane Williamson and Daryl Mitchell, who put the fear of god in the crowd with a 181-run third-wicket stand. In India these days, even in the Himalayas, it’s hard to find a spot where you can enjoy the silence. Perhaps the only place this still exists is a cricket ground when Kohli gets out or the opposition batsmen get going. The hush of 33,000 people is something to experience and the man who created it was Mitchell.

Confidently planting his front foot and swinging through the line to clear the infield, Mitchell took on Jasprit Bumrah like no other batsman had all tournament. Williamson’s role was more limited: all he had to do was handhold Mitchell and watch the action from 22 yards away.

As the pressure was put back onto India, they were ragged for perhaps the first time since the first ball of the World Cup. Catches were dropped and overthrows conceded.

The pressure of the scoreboard and the size of the target reassured India to keep plugging away, and they got real relief only in the 46th over when Mitchell (134) was caught in the deep. From there on, it was a matter of time before the bowlers wrested the game back.

Shami was the relentless aggressor, attacking the batsmen and the stumps with great control and heart. He returned figures of 9.5-0-57-7 and India won by 70 runs to book a spot in the final.

This was a day that contained everything an Indian captain could ask for. Individual achievement from one of their greatest heroes, a steady rain of fours and sixes and, finally an Indian victory.

November 15 may long be remembered as the day on which Kohli established himself as the leader of the global historic pack in ODI cricket. But, equally, and more importantly it was the day on which an irresistible team kept their date with destiny.

BRIEF SCORES India 397/4 (Kohli 117, Iyer 105, Gill 80*, Southee 3/100) beat New Zealand 327 (Mitchell 134, Williamson 69; Shami 7/57) by 70 runs

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