Heavy Rain takes over after News Zealand fightback: 2019 World Cup

It was a Tuesday of slow runs, damp weather and the long wait. Under grim skies that made illuminated floodlights a mandatory accessory to the World Cup semifinal, India tightened the screws on New Zealand.

Old Trafford’s dry pitch was on the slower side and the niggardly Men in Blue restricted the Black Caps to 211 for five in 46.1 overs when a steady drizzle gained strength and forced umpires Richard Illingworth and Richard Kettleborough to stop play at 2 p.m. local time.

Play suspended

The rains that wavered between the feathery drops and the insistent pitter-patter, continued unabated till 4.15 p.m. when the sun grudgingly peeped out. While the match officials hoped for an extended dry phase so that India could commence an abridged chase with a revised target based on the Duckworth-Lewis Method, a fresh wet spell, just as the umpires were inspecting the turf at 6.10 p.m., affected revival plans and it was decided to resume the face-off on Wednesday, which is the reserve day.

Earlier in the morning, despite a cloud cover and a nip in the air, boisterous Indian fans jostled on the roads, yelled patriotic slogans and belted out a rhyme in Rohit Sharma’s honour while WhatsApp was flooded with one query: “will it rain?” A cacophony of noise erupted from the stands as Kane Williamson won the toss, opted to bat and Martin Guptill and Henry Nicholls strode towards the crease.

First-ball drama

The first ball was all drama. Expectations and anguish tailed it as Bhuvneshwar Kumar, surprisingly preferred over Mohammed Shami, rapped Guptill’s pad. The appeal was negated, the review went in vain and Twitterati blamed the seamer. Meanwhile, Jasprit Bumrah did his shock and choke routine and a wicket seemed imminent.

The premonition proved true when Bumrah got one to jag, rise a bit and Guptill, not sure if he had to play or leave, edged to Kohli’s left at second slip and the Indian captain caught well. New Zealand was one for one in the fourth over and Williamson walked in, needing to validate his decision of taking first strike besides sealing the first crack.

Steady partnership

Bumrah’s delivery slid past the rival skipper’s willow and the fielders let out an “ooooooh”. Having survived that maiden inquisition, Williamson (67) remained unfazed except when a fly tried to make a home out of his helmet. The batsman got the pest out of his eye-line, nudged the singles, lent confidence to Nicholls and a steady 68-run second-wicket partnership took shape.

Amidst the ennui of dot balls came the relief of two fours. Nicholls cover-drove Bumrah but the acme was Williamson’s straight drive off Bhuvneshwar. Elegance shimmered in that shot and it was time to quote John Keats: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

Joining forces

India’s first-change bowlers Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja were in operation and the former was cut and pulled by Williamson while the latter appealed often. Still, the run-rate stayed below four and a noose hovered close. Just as New Zealand was turning stable, Nicholls missed one from Jadeja and the stumps were disturbed. New Zealand placed at 69 for two in the 19th over and Ross Taylor (67 batting) joined forces with his captain.

Meanwhile, India suffered a scare as Pandya held his left leg and gingerly retreated to the dressing room. Thankfully for Kohli’s men, the all-rounder returned while Yuzvendra Chahal struggled with a few wides. Taylor blocked while Williamson slog-swept the leg-spinner. Another inevitable 50 was Williamson’s to savour and after that he top-edged a pull off Pandya for four and Taylor’s snick off Bumrah dipped just before a diving M.S. Dhoni could get a glove to it.

Sense of urgency

Williamson slog-swept Jadeja and just as he was trying to infuse urgency, the 65-run third-wicket partnership concluded. An attempted drive off Chahal ended up as a slice to Jadeja at backward point. Wobbling at 134 for three in the 36th over, New Zealand was still searching for its springboard.

Much hinged on Taylor and all-rounder James Neesham but the latter struggled against bouncers. One such short-pitched projectile consumed the southpaw and Pandya found his reward. New Zealand needed a considerable push and Taylor complied, hammering a six and four off Chahal as the 44th over went for 18. Later, Taylor successfully reviewed an lbw verdict awarded to Bhuvneshwar, Colin de Grandhomme succumbed and a moist curtain that fell upon the venue extended the long delayed climax into Wednesday.

News Source: The Hindu

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