Mumbai: Mohammad Shami’s seven-fer, and scintillating centuries by Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer helped India storm through the finals of the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup after defeating New Zealand by 70 runs in the first semifinals of the tournament at Wankhede Stadium here on Wednesday.
With this win, India awaits the winner of South Africa and South Africa in the second semifinals of the tournament to be played at the iconic Eden Gardens tomorrow. The finals will be played at Bharat’s Colosseum in Ahmedabad on Super Sunday.
India’s victories most of the times have been headlined by the Indian batsmen, but this World Cup their bowlers have been on the dot, specially led by Shami who has been phenomenal in this tournament. And to take seven wickets on a wicket where the batsmen ruled the roost scoring 724 runs.
It was an incredibly unforgettable piece of history, considering Shami was benched in the early stages of the tournament. And he grabbed the opportunity coming his way, and delivered in his very first match of this tournament, and made Captain Rohit Sharma feel strong in Hardik Pandya’s absence.
Shami struck in his very first ball and then followed it up in the next over. It was top-notch seam bowling under lights and he nipped out both the New Zealand openers who were caught behind. He redeemed in style when India was under pressure for the first time in the tournament as centurion Daryl Mitchell and half-centurion Kane Williamson stitched an incredible 181 runs stand for third wicket.
Shami provided the key breakthrough by removing Williamson and trapping Tom Latham lbw in the same over. He finished with dreams figures of 7/57, making him the tournament’s highest wicket-taker, with 24 from six games at a breathtaking average of 9.13.
New Zealand were in the hunt as Mitchell and Glenn Phillips forged a half-ton partnership. Kuldeep Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah bowled 4 superb overs where they picked 2 wickets for just 20 runs.
And then, Shami came back to produce the killer blow. Dismissed Mitchell, the centurion, and picked wickets for fun to finish with a seven-fer.
And Kohli and Iyer have equally been excellent, especially the former who became the first batsman to hit 50 centuries in ODI history, surpassing his idol Sachin Tendulkar who got 49 under his belt. And, the great man was in the stands to accept Kohli’s bow after achieving the milestone.
Shreyas recorded back-to-back tons by hitting sixes for fun. KL Rahul scripted a cameo to take India’s to a match-winning total.
Earlier, Kohli’s record-breaking century and Iyer back-to-back hundred fired India to 397/4.
Kohli’s classy century (117 off 113, 9x4s 2x6s) came off after a blazing start given by openers Rohit and Gill. And, Iyer (105) brought up his ton from 67 balls.
Rohit backed his instincts and took on Trent Boult in his very first over by tonking a couple of streaky boundaries and clearly signalling his intent of making quick runs.
The India captain motored on in following overs too as he went after the Kiwi bowlers along with Gill, who batted with a decent intent. He went past Chris Gayle’s record of the most sixes in the history of the Cricket World Cup after getting his third maximum of the innings.
Unfortunately, Rohit fell three short of a half century after he lifted a slower ball from Tim Southee high in the air, where captain Kane Williamson ran backward to take a terrific catch.
Finding a good partner in Kohli, Gill kept the run rate going with some exquisite shots and helped India reach 150 by the end of 20th over, besides becoming the third-highest run-getter in ODI history.
As India chugged along at a good pace, Kiwi bowlers could not check the Indian batsmen, until Gill (79 off 65 8x4s 3x6s) was adjudged absent hurt after he picked up cramps.
As soon as Shreyas Iyer walked in, he was among the runs and uncorked a couple of big shots against Rachin Ravindra. Kohli notched up his first fifty in a World Cup knockout game, in the same over. He lifted Southee over legside for a six as India kept steaming up runs in the 30th over.
During the 34th over, he reached 674 runs in this edition of the World Cup. This helped him go one better over Sachin Tendulkar’s 673 at the 2003 World Cup, which was the record for the most runs in a single edition of the tournament.
Iyer and Kohli added 100 runs off just 79 balls, but India’s innings tempered down as the former captain was closing in for his record ODI century and starting to suffer from a hamstring cramp.
Recovering from it, Kohli milked through and reached his record-breaking milestone by taking two off Lockie Ferguson. Kohli opened his arms after reaching three figures, racing through the gears before departing to Southee for 117 from 113 balls to a standing ovation.
But, the excellent Iyer continued the momentum into the death overs as India turned their focus to a big-scoring finish.
Iyer’s hundred came off 67 balls, the third quickest by an Indian man at a Cricket World Cup, with eight of his 12 boundaries being sixes before he departed for 105 to Boult.
Mitchell Santner 1/51 were the pick of the returns for the Kiwis, with Southee taking three of the four wickets to fall but finishing with expensive figures of 3/100.
New Zealand needed something special to chase down the biggest target in the World Cup knockouts, and they did start well as Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra went about aggressively in the powerplay.
But more aggressive was Mohammad Shami as he once again struck with his very first ball and removed Conway caught behind Rahul for 13, and then sent back Rachin in the same manner for 13 as well.
Kane Williamson and Daryl Mitchell dug in and brought the innings back on to the track, reaching 100 runs mark for the Black Caps in 17th over, with the required run rate well within the reach of nine per over.
Mitchell’s bonhomie continued in this tournament as he reached a half-century as nerves started to build around the Wankhede. Shortly after, Williamson too notched up his fifty after surviving a runout scare from Rahul as the pair sketched up a partnership, keeping the Kiwis chirping at the target.
The duo added a crucial 181 for the third wicket before Williamson was picked up by Shami in his second spell after the Kiwi captain scored 69 from 73 balls with 9 boundaries and a six. And Shami snapped up his 4th wicket of Tom Latham for a duck.
The onus now laid with Mitchell and Glenn Philips to get to 398 target to deny India the final berth.
But Ravindra Jadeja’s excellence in the field put India on the cusp of victory as he caught Phillips (41) off Jasprit Bumrah and Mark Chapman (2) off Kuldeep Yadav to leave New Zealand six down and requiring a miracle.
And any hope disappeared when Jadeja made it a hat-trick of catches to end Mitchell’s 119-ball 134, with Shami taking the wicket to pick up yet another five-for.
And Shami returned for one final time to finish the job, picking up two more wickets to become the tournament’s leading wicket-taker and wrap up the win in ruthless fashion.
Both sides were unchanged ahead of the semifinal.