I still remember that day when I took the flight to Manchester, July 8, 2019 to watch India’s semi-final of the 2019 World Cup against New Zealand and like most of the Indians in the flight, I too was over the moon that India will have an easy win over the Black Caps and had already booked my hotel for the final at the Lord’s to see India playing.
The moment I landed and came out of the airport, my mood took a 180 degrees turn - seeing the gloomy weather and it was drizzling. I went to the hotel had an early night so that I could wake up in time to be the first person to reach the stadium.
The weather on July 9 was the same, cloudy and cold but thankfully - it was not raining. New Zealand won an important toss and asked India to field and they got an early breakthrough when Bumrah got the out-of-form Martin Guptill but in walked their skipper Williamson who had read the pitch well and played on it like as if he was playing a Test match to see off the new ball threat of Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Even though the scoring rate was below four per over, Henry Nicholls and Williamson played sedate cricket and made sure New Zealand did not lose further wickets and put on 68 valuable runs before Jadeja got Nicholls. Ross Taylor, too, was not in a hurry and was playing every ball on its merit and both he and Williamson were watchful - knowing that saving wickets on that juicy pitch was the need of the hour.
When India finally got Williamson in the 36th over of the match, the score was 134. I bumped into Mahela Jayawardene in the drinks break and asked him for his opinion about the game, He said it would be a tricky wicket and chasing here will not be easy for India. With every run ticking by, my heart was skipping a beat as I too felt this was not an easy pitch to bat on and there was a lot for both the pacers and spinners.
As the day progressed, the clouds were getting darker and when it started raining, the Kiwis were 211 runs after 46.1 overs. The rain did stop finally at 3pm UK time and there were speculations that India would have to chase 147 in 20 overs but it started drizzling again and the match was carried forward to the reserve day kept by ICC.
When I was returning to my hotel, I felt I would not be able to bear this tense chase the next day as India had faltered in all their previous semi-final chases - be it the 1987 Reliance World Cup against England, 1996 chase against Sri Lanka or the 2015 chase against Australia at Sydney.
I checked out of my hotel and went straight to the airport to take a flight back to Dubai that evening. I landed at 6 am the next day and reached home to catch up with some sleep before the match would resume at 1.30pm UAE time.
The forecast for the reserve day was good and New Zealand managed another 28 runs in the last 23 deliveries and reached a respectable 239 for eight for India to chase 240.
India had a horrific start to their innings when they lost Rohit Sharma in the second over and when Virat Kohli was given out lbw to Boult, India’s scorecard read three down for just four runs on the board as Rahul fell too, India’s top three batsmen each fell for one run and it set the cat among the pigeons when Dinesh Karthik too fell early as India were tottering at 24 for four after 10 overs.
Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya tried their best to consolidate but eventually, both fell in trying to hit Mitchell Santner - leaving India at 90 for six with just M.S. Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja left as the last recognised pair.
Jadeja took the attack to the opposition and with the support of Dhoni, put on a partnership of 116 runs. At one stage, India needed 42 of the last four overs and it seemed the pair can take India through - but Boult got the dangerous Jadeja. When Dhoni got run out by a thunderous Martin Guptill throw from nowhere in the 49th over, the expression on Dhoni’s face said that it was all over for India bar the shouting. India’s dream of making to the their fourth final of the World cup was shattered once again, this time by a spirited New Zealand team - who were the underdogs.
Captain Virat Kohli said at the post-match presentation that 45 minutes of bad cricket knocked India out of the World Cup. He might have been right in the context of the game but World Cup wins don’t come easy. Ask Williamson, who had an agonising loss in the final against eventual champions England.
- Cricket enthusiast and businessman Anis Sajan is the Vice Chairman of Danube Group