Indian pacer Mohammed Shami celebrates the dismissal of New Zealand's centurion Daryl Mitchell, one of his seven dismissal in the semi-finals on Wednesday. Image Credit: ANI

Dubai: A dropped catch spurred Mohammed Shami to produce his best spell against New Zealand and to guide India into the final of the 50-over Cricket World Cup, to be played in Ahmedabad on Sunday.

The Indian pacer dropped New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson, who was threatening to take the match away along with Daryl Mitchell. But Shami returned to dismiss Williamson and added another in the same over with Tom Latham’s scalp and later finish with a seven-wicket haul that helped the hosts win the first semi-finals by 70 runs at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Wednesday.

Shami, who was waiting on the bench, got the much-needed chance after all-rounder Hardik Pandya got injured in the fourth match against Bangladesh on October 19. In the subsequent six matches, the 33-year-old pacer has taken his tally to 23 wickets with three five-wicket hauls. Shami began his campaign in this World Cup against the Kiwis at Dharamsala with a five-wicket haul and interestingly his last 50-over World Cup match prior to that was in 2019 in Manchester, which India lost.

Waiting patiently for the chance

“I was waiting for my chances. I didn’t play a lot of white-ball cricket. My return started against New Zealand [in Dharamsala]. I dropped Williamson’s catch, which I shouldn’t have and felt terrible,” Shami told the broadcasters after receiving the man of the match award. “Last two World Cups, we lost in the semi-finals. Who knows when or if we’ll get a chance, so we wanted to do everything in this, a chance we didn’t want to let go. It feels amazing.”

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Indian players celebrate the dismissal of New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, whose wicket gave India the much-needed breakthrough towards their march to victory. Image Credit: Reuters

The Indian pacer, who tops the bowling table after surpassing Australian spinner Adam Zampa, revealed his secret for success. “We talk a lot of variations, but I still believe in pitching it up and getting wickets with the new ball. But today the focus was to try and take pace off, see if they’re hitting it in the air. It was a chance we had to take with the variations as the wicket was very good with plenty runs,” he added as the hosts maintained their unbeaten run in this World Cup. India will be facing the winners of the second semi-final to be held in Kolkata on Thursday.

India’s star batter Virat Kohli struck a record 50th hundred and a blistering 105 from Shreyas Iyer helped India post 397 for four wickets after they won the toss and elected to bat first at the Wankhede Stadium, where the hosts had lifted their second and last 50-over World Cup trophy in 2011.

In reply, New Zealand were bundled out for 327 in the 49th over with Daryl Mitchell’s excellent innings of 134 proving to be in vain.

Daryl Mitchell celebrates his century against India in the semi-finals in Mumbai. Image Credit: ANI

Plundering runs

Mitchell added 181 for the third wicket with Kane Williamson to keep the Black Caps firmly in the chase but Shami, who sent back both openers, returned to dismiss the New Zealand captain and Tom Latham in one over to put India on top.

The right-handed Mitchell suffered cramps after getting past his hundred but continued to plunder runs with Glenn Phillips during a 75-run stand before the latter fell for a 33-ball 41.

The target ultimately proved too steep, however, as the Indian juggernaut rolled on for their 10th win in as many matches in the 50-over showpiece with Shami finishing with figures of seven for 57.

Kohli’s 117, which came off 113 balls, gave him the record for the highest number of centuries in the 50-overs format of the game, taking him past Sachin Tendulkar, the Indian batting great who was in the stands to applaud the feat.

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Shami has been in imperious form to claim 23 wickets in just six matches in this World Cup. Image Credit: ANI

After scampering two runs off fast bowler Lockie Ferguson to get to his mark, Kohli took off his helmet and bowed to the stands where television cameras showed Tendulkar and former England soccer captain David Beckham standing and clapping in appreciation.

Late fireworks

The 35-year-old hit nine fours and two sixes before holing out in the deep off fast bowler Tim Southee, who took three wickets for 100.

Iyer’s blistering 105, which came off 70 balls and was studded with four fours and eight sixes, provided the late fireworks for India.

India captain Rohit Sharma, who made 47, gave the hosts a rollicking start in a 71-run opening stand with Shubman Gill.

Gill retired hurt due to leg cramps but returned to resume his innings and finished unbeaten on 80.

— with inputs from Reuters