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Unstoppable India advance despite Mitchell century

Kris Shannon,
Publish Date
Thu, 16 Nov 2023, 7:09am
India celebrate the wicket of Kane Williamson in their semifinal clash. Photo / Photosport
India celebrate the wicket of Kane Williamson in their semifinal clash. Photo / Photosport

Unstoppable India advance despite Mitchell century

Kris Shannon,
Publish Date
Thu, 16 Nov 2023, 7:09am

India recorded a perfect 10 to advance to the Cricket World Cup final. They needed to be almost flawless to outlast a dogged Daryl Mitchell and the Black Caps. 

The hosts have earned a measure of revenge for their semifinal defeat by New Zealand four years ago, surviving a tenacious ton from Mitchell to clinch a 70-run triumph this morning. 

That margin offered no hint of the angst India must have felt as Mitchell (134 off 118) threatened to steer a record-breaking chase of 398, before Mohammed Shami (7-57) snared his decisive scalp. 

Given everything going against the Black Caps, though, the final result was no great shock. India had been unstoppable in the round robin, racking up nine comprehensive victories, and were playing in front of adoring fans at Wankhede Stadium, venue for their 2011 World Cup triumph. 

The hosts had their pick of the pitches, won a crucial toss to enjoy the best of conditions, and seized control with a first innings that must have closely resembled their dream blueprint. 

It was certainly an innings of Virat Kohli’s dreams, breaking a tie with Sachin Tendulkar and becoming the first player to record 50 centuries in ODI cricket. Kohli (117 off 113) and Shreyas Iyer (105 off 70) took command of the middle overs, building on a blazing start and setting up a furious finish that added up to a total of 397-4. 

It was the highest total in World Cup knockout play — surpassing the Black Caps’ 393 against the West Indies in 2015 — and left New Zealand needing their highest total batting second in ODI history. 

Having recently set the previous mark of 383 in defeat by Australia, however, the mission was hardly impossible. When Mitchell and Kane Williamson put on 181 from 149 for the third wicket, it started to seem feasible. 

But despite Mitchell setting a new high score in the innings of a lifetime, the Black Caps were lower order crumbled as they were dismissed for 327 in the penultimate over. 

Daryl Mitchell celebrates his century against India. Photo / PhotosportDaryl Mitchell celebrates his century against India. Photo / Photosport 

Williamson’s side were left to rue another substandard bowling and fielding effort in a tournament featuring too many, ending a curious campaign not far from the final while beating none of their fellow contenders. 

It will likely be a much-changed team who chase a sixth straight semifinal appearance in four years’ time, with 13 of their original 15-man squad north of 30. This generation mounted a convincing case to be considered New Zealand’s greatest but they couldn’t add a limited-overs crown to the World Test Championship triumph of 2021. 

That prize was secured against India and, after the epic 2019 semifinal in Manchester, the Black Caps began today with sights on a completing trio of famous victories. It didn’t take long until India sped from view. 

That changed in the ninth over as Williamson took a terrific backtracking catch to remove Rohit (47 off 29) from a Tim Southee slower ball. But with Shubman Gill assuming the aggressor role, the wicket did little to restrict India’s charge. 

Rachin Ravindra and Glenn Phillips joined Mitchell Santner in a spin-heavy attack but a cap-wearing Gill appeared rather comfortable, coming down the pitch with impunity as India reached 150-1 after 20 overs. Cramp soon replaced comfort as the Mumbai heat did what the bowlers couldn’t, with Gill forced to retire hurt on 79 from 65. 

The opener’s departure barely slowed the scoring and India were well placed on 214-1 after 30, before the Black Caps finally stemmed the flow as a patient Kohli crept near his century. 

But after Santner (0-51) sent down the first maiden of the match, Kohli registered his record ton and the hosts exploded. Iyer accelerated to his century and KL Rahul (39no off 20) applied an ideal finishing touch as India plundered 110 from the final 10, the old guard of Southee (3-100) and Trent Boult (1-86) thoroughly worn out. 

Virat Kohli scored a record-breaking century. Photo / PhotosportVirat Kohli scored a record-breaking century. Photo / Photosport 

In contrast, India’s attack came out firing, having entered boasting the best economy rate and strike rate in the tournament. The ball was suddenly moving in the air and off the seam, and it was a matter of time before Devon Conway edged a sharp catch to KL Rahul. 

Shami was once more doing damage, having picked up five scalps in his side’s round-robin win over New Zealand, and the veteran quick again struck in his second over with a fine line too good for Ravindra. 

The required rate quickly climbed above nine and surviving was tough enough as Williamson and Mitchell edged to 46-2 after 10. But batting conditions improved after the powerplay and both men passed 50 as they progressed to 161-2 at the halfway mark. 

When Mitchell smacked Ravindra Jadeja 107 metres over his head for the longest six of the tournament, an improbable upset loomed. And when Williamson escaped a shocking drop from Shami in the 29th over, the match was trending in one direction. 

But after Mitchell notched his second hundred of the tournament, Shami returned to the crease and immediately atoned for his error, getting Williamson caught on the boundary and trapping Tom Latham plumb two balls later. 

New Zealand needed 177 from 100 balls and the double-blow slowed the scoring to a pivotal extent, Mitchell and Phillips (41 off 33) accumulating 18-2 in a five-over period during which they had to launch. 

The equation stood at 132 off the final 10, and while a 20-run 41st over helped their cause, the target — and a World Cup trophy — remained tantalisingly out of reach. 

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