Like the endearing warmth of the fireplace in a cold Himalayan cottage, India too found its comfort zone up in the hills. Virat Kohli (95, 104b, 8x4, 2x6) played the shepherd guiding his flock, and chasing New Zealand’s 273, the Men in Blue coasted home with a four-wicket victory. India finished with 274 for six in 48 overs in a key World Cup game at the HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala on October 22.
The pursuit shimmered bright in the beginning as skipper Rohit Sharma whipped and lofted Trent Boult, and hoisted and scooped Matt Henry. Shubman Gill, meanwhile, drove with elan, and India moved to 63 for no loss in 10 overs. A false note occurred when Rohit (46) chopped Lockie Ferguson onto his stumps.
Next man Kohli punched Ferguson for four but Gill failed to get past the waiting third-man fielder. The clouds then descended and the cricketers admired nature’s tapestry. Despite the mist, Kohli and Shreyas Iyer got some runs but when visibility declined, a short break was imposed.
On resumption, Shreyas succumbed to Boult. Kohli watched K.L. Rahul tuck into Rachin Ravindra’s spin. The last-named then felt the heat of Kohli’s blade, an inside-out lofted strike flew into the skies and when Henry steamed in, he was drilled away with disdain.
Mitchell Santner prised out Rahul and the worry-lines popped up once Suryakumar Yadav got run-out. India was delicately placed at 191 for five but Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja ensured that there were no further alarms. A garland of muscular hits against Boult found Kohli nearly galloping towards his ton before he fell at the last stretch but by then he had left India at the cusp of a special triumph.
In the afternoon as vehicles crawled up narrow hill roads and boisterous fans disembarked in their blue shade, Rohit won the toss and elected to field. India stepped in with two changes as Mohammed Shami and Suryakumar replaced Hardik Pandya and Shardul Thakur.
Devon Conway, watchful against Jasprit Bumrah, flicked Mohammed Siraj to a diving Shreyas. With Conway dismissed for nought and Shami’s first ball in the current World Cup forcing Will Young to drag one onto his stumps, New Zealand needed an alliance.
The situation could have become worse but in a rare episode of Ravindra dropping Ravindra, Jadeja grassed Rachin, when the latter was on 12 while Shami rued his bad luck. A partnership emerged between Ravindra and Daryl Mitchell with the highlight being their massive sixes off Kuldeep Yadav. The pair survived vociferous appeals and bonded for more than 20 overs.
Mitchell, had his lucky break on 69 with Bumrah dropping him off an aggrieved Kuldeep. The 159-run third-wicket alliance concluded when Ravindra (75) holed out in the deep off Shami. Kuldeep then trapped New Zealand skipper Tom Latham while Mitchell cruised towards his hundred.
The centurion watched fickle companions leave as Shami clattered stumps. Mitchell (130, 127b, 9x4, 5x6) became Shami’s fifth victim (five for 54) as India kept the visitors under 300. It proved within reach as Kohli played the lead star.
NEW ZEALAND: Devon Conway c Shreyas b Siraj 0 (9b), Will Young b Shami 17 (27b, 3x4), Rachin Ravindra c Gill b Shami 75 (87b, 6x4, 1x6), Daryl Mitchell c Kohli b Shami 130 (127b, 9x4, 5x6), Tom Latham lbw b Kuldeep 5 (7b, 1x4), Glenn Phillips c Rohit b Kuldeep 23 (26b, 1x6), Mark Chapman c Kohli b Bumrah 6 (8b), Mitchell Santner b Shami 1 (2b), Matt Henry b Shami 0 (1b), Lockie Ferguson run out 1 (5b), Trent Boult (not out) 0 (1b); Extras (b-3, lb-5, w-7): 15.
Total (in 50 overs): 273.
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-9 (Conway, 3.3 overs), 2-19 (Young, 8.1), 3-178 (Ravindra, 33.3), 4-205 (Latham, 36.5), 5-243 (Phillips, 44.2), 6-257 (Chapman, 46.6), 7-260 (Santner, 47.4), 8-260 (Henry, 47.5), 9-273 (Mitchell, 49.5).
INDIA BOWLING: Bumrah 10-1-45-1, Siraj 10-1-45-1, Shami 10-0-54-5, Jadeja 10-0-48-0, Kuldeep 10-0-73-2.
INDIA: Rohit Sharma b Ferguson 46 (40b, 4x4, 4x6), Shubman Gill c Mitchell b Ferguson 26 (31b, 5x4), Virat Kohli c Phillips b Henry 95 (104b, 8x4, 2x6), Shreyas Iyer c Conway b Boult 33 (29b, 6x4), K.L. Rahul lbw b Santner 27 (35b, 3x4), Suryakumar Yadav run out 2 (4b), Ravindra Jadeja (not out) 39 (44b, 3x4, 1x6), Mohammed Shami (not out) 1 (1b); Extras (lb-1, w-4): 5.
Total (for six wkts. in 48 overs): 274.
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-71 (Rohit, 11.1), 2-76 (Gill, 13.2), 3-128 (Shreyas, 21.3), 4-182 (Rahul, 32.1), 5-191 (Suryakumar, 33.5), 6-269 (Kohli, 47.4).
NEW ZEALAND BOWLING: Boult 10-0-60-1, Henry 9-0-55-1, Santner 10-0-37-1, Ferguson 8-0-63-2, Ravindra 9-0-46-0, Phillips 2-0-12-0.
India won by four wickets with two overs to spare.