He came, he put on a show, but Ravindra Jadeja failed to conquer as India crashed out of the World Cup after losing to New Zealand by 18 runs in the semi-final at the Old Trafford on Wednesday, 10 July.
On a wicket tailor-made for the bowlers, Jadeja did play a blinder (77 off 59 balls, 4x4. 6x4). But it was too late in the day as the top-order collapse came to haunt India at the end. Needing 52 off the last five overs, Jadeja looked to be guiding India home under the tutelage of former skipper MS Dhoni, but Trent Boult had the last laugh as he dismissed Jadeja in the 48th over to bring New Zealand right back into the game.
Jadeja's 77-run knock was the highest in the history of World Cup for a batsman batting at number eight in the second innings, but it was just not enough to take India home.
The untimely run out of Dhoni (50 off 72 balls, 4x1, 6x1) in the 49th over was the final nail in the coffin.
Chasing 239, India were 92/6 and looking down the barrel before Jadeja joined Dhoni and raised hopes of a counter. In the end, their partnership of 116 runs was the highest in the history of World Cup for the seventh wicket.
But the start was a disaster for India as the in-form Rohit Sharma (1), skipper Virat Kohli (1), opener KL Rahul (1) and Dinesh Karthik (6) were done in by some beautiful bowling by Matt Henry and Trent Boult.
While Henry sent Rohit back with a beauty, Boult was slightly lucky to get Kohli leg-before to a ball which looked to be high to the naked eye. Kohli did call for a review, but it was umpire's call and a dejected skipper had to walk back withe scoreboard reading 5/2.
Rahul refused to learn from the mistakes of the senior batsmen as he kept the bat hanging outside as a Henry delivery took the edge and landed in the hands of wicketkeeper Tom Latham. Karthik too looked like a cat on a hot tin roof in his short stay in the middle, which came to an end when Jimmy Neesham picked a beauty at point to hand Henry his third wicket.
The top-order collapse saw India stranded at 24/4 when Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya joined hands to weave a 47-run partnership for the fifth wicket before a slog sweep off Mitchell Santner saw Pant (32 off 56 balls) walk back to the pavilion, much to the dismay of skipper Virat Kohli in the dressing room. The score read 71/5 when Dhoni walked in to join Pandya.
The scoring rate was slow, but the fact that Dhoni was guiding Pandya meant that India were in the game. The Kiwi bowlers kept bowling a tight line and that finally saw Pandya lose his cool and try a hoick over mid-wicket. But the ball went straight up and Kane Williamson took a brilliant catch.
But the wicket turned out to be a blessing in disguise for India as Jadeja seemed to be batting on a different track altogether as he hit the Kiwi bowlers all around the park. Going into the last 10 overs, India needed 90 runs and it was always a question of picking that one wicket for the Kiwi bowlers.
Earlier, resuming on 211/5, New Zealand finished on 239/8 in their 50 overs after rain interrupted play 46.1 overs into their innings on Tuesday. Jasprit Bumrah had spoken about wickets slowing down towards the business end of the tournament and it was evident during the first semifinal as the Indian bowlers made full use of the conditions after Williamson won the toss and opted to bat.
Ross Taylor was the only bright spot for New Zealand as he hit a 90-ball 74 before being run out, courtesy a direct hit from Jadeja in the 48th over. Jadeja then followed it up with a brilliant catch off the first ball of the next over from Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3/43) as Tom Latham had to walk back for 10. On Tuesday, Williamson also played his part by hitting a 95-ball 67 as former cricketers criticised the slowness of the pitch for the crucial encounter.
Slower bouncers, cutters and the knuckle balls ruled the roost as the Indian bowlers showed why they are considered one of the best in world cricket at present. Even as the team management surprised many by deciding to drop the in-form Mohammad Shami, the trio of Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar and all-rounder Hardik Pandya showed that they were up for the challenge.
Such was the struggle of the Kiwi openers that the first run in the innings came in the 3rd over, the 17th ball to be more precise. And as they say, morning did show the day as it was a struggle for the New Zealand batsmen right through. In fact, even the in-form Williamson looked a pale shadow of his usual self as he looked to dig in and score some runs for his bowlers to defend.
While Nicholls did all the hardwork, he was dismissed in the 19th over by a beauty from Jadeja which turned just enough to beat the edge of the bat. The 51-ball 28 was just not the knock he would have wanted to play after digging in deep.
But it wasn't any easier for Ross Taylor either as he looked to have hit a rut. In fact, at one stage he wasn't even able to pick the singles. But the two did try their best to spend time in the middle to stretch the partnership and keep wickets in the bag.
Taylor was given a half-life on 22 as Dhoni failed to latch onto one that dropped almost in front of his gloves off Bumrah. A front leap instead of a sideways dive could have seen him pick that up. Williamson was finally dismissed against the run of play by Chahal as one seemed to grip just enough to have the skipper play it early. The literal lob was gobbled up by Jadeja behind point as Williamson walked back for a 95-ball 67 in the 36th over.
The move to have Jimmy Neesham come in as a pinch-hitter didn't work any wonders as he managed just 12 off 18 balls. Taylor continued his struggle and was also saved by DRS after the umpire gave him out on 56. While rain then cut short the innings on Tuesday, the Kiwis managed to score 28 runs off the remaining 23 balls for the loss of three wickets on Wednesday. In total, 84 runs came off the last 10 overs.
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