Mohammed Shami blows away New Zealand as India storm into the World Cup 2023 final
The drama, the thrill, and a mountain of almost insurmountable odds braved in a flicker with almost heart-stopping action to match the pulsating rhythm of the Wankhede concourse is what defined India’s thrilling victory against an old rival, New Zealand, in the first semifinal to become the first finalist of the 2023 ICC ODI World Cup.
Winning the toss, India opted to bat first on a surface that had clear signs of slowing down despite the ominous forecast of dew setting in later in the game. The Men in Blue meant business from the word ‘go’ as Rohit Sharma emanated a blitz like none other while Shubman Gill was happy to knock the cherry around.
The Indian skipper fell for a fiery 47 from just 29 balls as Tim Southee could produce that all important mis-hit from Rohit, who was firing on all cylinders. However, that never really sorted out the problems for the visitors as Gill got in the groove in no time, allowing an incoming Virat Kohli to settle down. The partnership of Kohli and Gill seemed to roll well enough as they added 88 runs for the second wicket before the latter walked away retired hurt with his score on 79*.
Shreyas Iyer arrived at the center and he continued exactly from where he left off against Netherlands in the last game. The duo kept the scoreboard ticking as the hapless Kiwi bowlers could only scramble for shelter amidst the raining fours and sixes.
A staggering 168-run partnership between the two cemented India’s dominance, also providing the immediate fuel for the grandstand flourish. As Virat fell for a mammoth 117, KL Rahul found it hard early on but soon got into the groove.
Iyer (105) and Rahul (39) knitted together a 54-run stand for the fourth wicket from just 23 balls, and it was the latter who stayed till the end to see India off to a staggering 397/4 at the end of their 50 overs. Tim Southee claimed three wickets but was hit for a century of runs from his allotment of 10 overs.
Chasing 398, New Zealand had an early stutter as Mohammed Shami weaved his gilt-edged magic to strike a double whammy in the form of Devon Conway (13) and Rachin Ravindra (13). KL Rahul pulled an absolute stunner behind the stumps, flying to his left as India tasted first blood to remove Conway.
However, the initial two wickets did very little to dampen the Kiwi spirits as Kane Williamson and Daryl Mitchell found themselves restructuring the innings before shifting gears to intensify the frowns on the Indian faces. To make matters worse, with New Zealand cruising towards the total, Shami dropped an easy chance offered by Williamson, handing the opposition skipper a lifeline.
The dropped catch cost India 33 more runs before Shami came back and redeemed himself with another swashbuckling spell, claiming a crucial couple of wickets. Trying to flick Shami over the deep square leg fielder, Williamson (69) hit it straight into the hands of Suryakumar Yadav, sending the Wankhede crowd into raptures.
To aggravate the matters for New Zealand, Tom Latham departed for a duck as Shami trapped him in front of the wicket. Despite a couple of wickets falling in quick succession, the visitors conjured further resistance through a partnership between Mitchell and Glenn Phillips. Despite the battle oscillating between the two teams, India was able to apply the squeeze harder that made runs slightly difficult to come by in the face of a steadily leaping asking rate.
Trying to up the tempo, Phillips (41) decided to bring out the heavy artillery and all he could manage was to find Ravindra Jadeja a yard inside the ropes while Kuldeep Yadav got the better of Mark Chapman as he holed out to deep square leg.
The next wicket was the jackpot for the Men in Blue as Mohammed Shami forced Daryl Mitchell (134) to take him on and he could go only as far as Ravindra Jadeja at deep midwicket. Shami had a very special celebration to mark this game-defining moment which also proved to be his second fifer of the tournament.
Following the scalp of Mitchell, it was just a mere formality from thereon for the Men in Blue. Mohammed Siraj got the better of Mitchell Santner while Shami returned for that final over of his, eventually snuffing out the Kiwi tail claiming Southee and Lockie Ferguson in the same over to make it a 7-fer for him, eventually becoming the man with the best bowling figures in the India threads in ODIs and definitely in the World Cup. He was also awarded the Player of the Match as India scripted a staggering 70-run victory.