Mohammed Shami
India’s Mohammed Shami celebrates after taking the wicket of New Zealand's Daryl Mitchell, caught out by Ravindra Jadeja. Shami finished with a haul of 7-57 as India won by 70 runs and marched into Sunday’s final at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, India. Image Credit: Reuters

The Cricket World Cup semifinal turned out to be a white-knuckle ride for India. That’s the nature of knockout games. After dominating the league games, India were put through the wringer by New Zealand. A 70-run win seem comfortable, but Wednesday’s match at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, was anything but comfortable.

A record 50th century from Virat Kohli and a second successive ton from Shreyas Iyer gave India a winning total, but New Zealand chased it with gusto. Daryl Mitchell breathed life into the innings after early setbacks with a bold 134, and kept the chase alive in the company of captain Kane Williamson. But Mohammed Shami turned the tables on them with a seven-wicket haul to ensure India’s march into the final.

The dream of a billion remains alive. One more hurdle to cross before India can erupt in joy on Sunday. That’s not easy because India’s opponents will be Australia or South Africa, who have been in superb form.

The two square off on Thursday at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata, where rain threatens to disrupt the game. But there’s a spare day. And if that too is washed out South Africa enter the final on the strength of their win when the two teams met in the league.

South Africa chase maiden title

It would put the Proteas a win away from their maiden World Cup win. But if play is possible, it could well be a cracker. For Australia are no pushovers. They are five-time winners and have a knack of coming back strongly at the business end of tournaments.

It is precisely what they have done this time too. After two losses, they turned the campaign around to make the semifinal. Which puts them two wins away from a sixth title.

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That could happen since South Africa tend to choke in crunch games. But this is a young side, a balanced side. They have the arsenal to upend the Aussies.

But none would bet against the Aussies. They are the Baggy Greens who refuse to roll over and die. When they looked down and out against Afghanistan, Glenn Maxwell’s incredible double hundred fetched them an improbable win. In other matches, David Warner, Mitchell Marsh and Adam Zampa have excelled to fashion fine wins.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. That’s Australia. Will that work against the South Africa? Difficult to say. But hardened cricket-watchers would put their money on Australia. The momentum is with them. And their never-say-die spirit wins lost battles.

Over to Eden Gardens.