New Zealand booked their second consecutive ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup final appearance as a brilliant bowling performance secured a dramatic 18-run victory over India at the Old Trafford in Manchester on Wednesday.
Skipper Kane Williamson could barely hide his glee as Matt Henry and Trent Boult tore through India’s top order, reducing them to 24 for four at the end of the tenth over.
Batsmen continued to fall until a record seventh-wicket partnership of 116 runs between wicketkeeper-batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni and swashbuckling all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja edged India into a slight ascendancy.
But Williamson held his nerve under a high catch to dismiss the latter and Martin Guptill’s brilliant run out of Dhoni ended their determined rear-guard action.
“That was a brilliant fighting effort, which showed such a great mentality from our guys. Our start with the ball was outstanding, kicking us off and getting us into a real position of strength. They showed the qualities that we expect from our team but India are a class side and they did soak it up even after being 20 for four, which was a really tough start," the ICC press release quoted Williamson as saying.
“The game was on a very fine line at one point and it’s just nice to be on the right side of it and the small margins went our way. There were so many contributions throughout the match, with bat, ball, in the field, that were vital to get us across the line," he added.
"The way Jadeja and Dhoni were hitting the ball, they were likely to win, but our fielders were then outstanding. Martin’s run out of Dhoni was a significant turning point of the match," the New Zealand skipper continued.
Williamson’s side came into this knockout game on the back of consecutive group stage defeats to Pakistan, Australia and England - their solid start to the tournament enough to narrowly secure a place in the knockout stages.
The captain had always insisted there was no panic in the camp and the team now head to Lord’s - and a final date with either England or Australia - brimming with confidence, despite losing to both sides in the group stages.
“We can beat anybody when we turn up,” added Williamson. “We are looking forward to the challenge, it’s a very special moment to play in a World Cup final, especially at Lord’s.
“We want to reflect on the good things we did in this match and the things we want to improve on. We are just enjoying our cricket and it’s nice to be getting on a bus to London, rather than flying home. It’s been an enjoyable ride, but the feet are on the ground and we look forward to our next challenge.”
The manner of the defeat will hurt Virat Kohli’s India but Williamson hopes their passionate Bharat Army supporters will now adopt the Black Caps, as they seek to win the World Cup for the first time.
“The passion for the game in India is unrivalled and we are all fortunate to have a country like India be right behind this sport. India are a world-class side but cricket is fickle in its nature, especially when it comes to the white ball game. Hopefully we can adopt 1.5 billion supporters and they'll be behind us on Sunday," Williamson signed off.
New Zealand will now face the winners of another World Cup 2019 semi-final clash between Australia and England in the summit showdown at Lord's on July 14.