World Cup dreams end as India lose in semis despite Jadeja, Dhoni’s heroics

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sunil Gavaskar, retirement, Kapil Dev, Rishabh Pant, Indian cricket team,
The 38-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman has been on sabbatical for more than two months now and is unlikely to be available for the team's ventures even in November. Photo: PTI

India’s famed top-order imploded on a day when it mattered most as a gritty New Zealand survived a late counter-attack from Ravindra Jadeja to win an exciting World Cup semi-final by 18 runs in Machester on Wednesday (July 11).

Indian top-order had one failure due and much to their horror, the semi-final proved to be their doomsday. Jadeja (77 off 59 balls) used every ounce of his ‘bits and pieces’ skill but the ‘Men in Blue’ could only get as far as 221 in 49.3 overs in pursuit of 240.

New Zealand made it to their second successive World Cup final, with credit going to their pacers’ — Matt Henry (3/37) and Trent Boult’s (2/42) — deadly opening spell and Lockie Ferguson’s steely nerve in the penultimate over.

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The script was eerily similar to the 2015 World Cup semi-final, and just like that evening in Sydney, skipper Virat Kohli was once again out cheaply and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (50) was stuck in the middle overs.

Mitchell Santner (2/34) bottled Dhoni up and there was too much left for Jadeja to do even as he smacked four sixes and four boundaries to raise hopes of a turnaround.

Dhoni, in what could be his last international innings, was run-out by a direct throw from Martin Guptill. This was after Dhoni and Jadeja raised visions of an improbable win after adding 116 runs for the seventh wicket, after coming together at 92/6.

Jadeja came in under overcast conditions when all looked lost and then wielded his willow like a sword, proving a point to critics like Sanjay Manjrekar in the most befitting manner.

Call it a déjà vu, but at a time when Jadeja was scripting a near-impossible recovery, Kapil Dev was at the Neville Ground in Tunbridge Wells, where it all changed for Indian cricket one morning.

After his angry 140 character rant on social media, Jadeja raged with a 24-carat performance. He let his game do the talking as Kohli couldn’t have asked for a better all-round effort. He had taken a wicket for 34 runs in 10 overs with his left-arm orthodox spin.

The chase wasn’t a big one but Henry’s first spell did upset the apple-cart once and for all.

Man of the Moment, Rohit Sharma (1) got a delivery from Henry that squared him up as it straightened after pitching. The nick was taken by Tom Latham.

Kohli (1) looked edgy against Boult, who angled a couple across the Indian captain before bringing his stock delivery that swung in and caught him leg before wicket. KL Rahul (1) has never been comfortable against quality seam and swing bowling. It was no different today as Henry bowled one on the good length that deviated late and the opener failed to take his bat away as Latham made the dive.

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At 5 for 3, India have had their worst start of the tournament and it just got even worse when Jimmy Neesham’s outstanding effort at backward point ended Dinesh Karthik’s (6 off 25 balls) misery.

Rishabh Pant (32) and Hardik Pandya (32) then steadied the ship with a 47 run stand with the left-hander hitting some crisp drives through the off-side cordon.

Just when they seemed to have gotten into rhythm, Pant’s impetuosity cost India dearly as a slog sweep was taken by Colin de Grandhomme off Santner. After Pandya too slogged Santner and got caught, the end looked near, but Jadeja, who joined Dhoni, had other ideas.

Earlier, New Zealand’s struggles continued on a fresh day as they finished on 239 for 8. Resuming at 211 for 5 from a day earlier when rains had stopped play, the Black Caps could add only 28 runs to their overnight tally with a single boundary being hit off the remaining 23 balls.

After the defeat, Indian captain Virat Kohli said, “The game pretty much changed in the first 40 minutes when we were batting. New Zealand deserves a lot of credit because they really put up a great display of how to bowl with a new ball and forced us to make errors, if any.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a tweet, said he was proud of the team for fighting “till the very end”. In a tweet, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too said India had put up a “great fight” and congratulated New Zealand.

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