Black Caps make us all believe

Black Caps all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme watches on as Indian wicketkeeper-batsman MS Dhoni is...
Black Caps all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme watches on as Indian wicketkeeper-batsman MS Dhoni is run out by Martin Guptill during India's innings of the ICC Cricket World Cup semifinal at Old Trafford in Manchester yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
We never doubted them - much.

OK, a lot.

Guptill is congratulated by wicketkeeper Tom Latham. Photo: Getty Images
Guptill is congratulated by wicketkeeper Tom Latham. Photo: Getty Images
But we believe now.

The Black Caps might not be the most talented side left in the World Cup.

They do not play with the same razzmatazz as they did four years ago.

They are more tenacious than brilliant, more determined than dazzling.

This team plays its best cricket when cornered - and they were cornered in the semifinal against India at Old Trafford.

They had to claw their way into Sunday's World Cup final. And their 18-run win has stunned the cricketing world.

The drama spanned two sleepless nights for many New Zealanders.

For the first time in World Cup history, the semifinal had to be completed on the reserve day.

When rain forced the players from the field in the early hours of Wednesday morning (New Zealand time), the Black Caps were seemingly poorly placed, on 211 for five with just 23 balls remaining.

Most of the premature postmortems suggested a defendable target was well out of reach.

We know now the gutsy 67 Kane Williamson was able to graft out was yet more evidence of his mastery. His 65-run partnership with Ross Taylor gave the Black Caps a platform.

Taylor helped get New Zealand through 239 for eight with his knock of 74.

It was not always pretty. But on that pitch, against that attack, it was arguably one of Taylor's greatest knocks, and certainly one of his most valuable.

But it would have all been in vain had it not been for a tremendous effort with ball and a near flawless display in the field.

A young India fan can barely watch. Photo: Reuters
A young India fan can barely watch. Photo: Reuters
Matt Henry - the man who was clobbered for 25 runs in one over earlier in the tournament- combined with Trent Boult at the top of the innings to reduce India to 24 for four.

Among their victims were the classy Rohit Sharma - the competition's leading scorer - and the incomparable Virat Kohli.

It is hard to believe they were both gone within three overs.

But the Black Caps do not have a mortgage on tenacity. India fought back, first through Rishabh Pant (32) and Hardik Pandya (32), and then through MS Dhoni (50) and Ravindra Jadeja (77), who looked to have the chase under control.

Dhoni and Jadeja put on 116 for the seventh wicket and were closing the gap between the target and the remaining balls.

The game was slipping away from the Black Caps. Williamson brought Boult back and he struck, removing the dangerous Jadeja. It proved to be a turning point.

There were plenty of other heroes. Jimmy Neesham intercepted the ball an inch above the grass to remove Dinesh Karthik.

Spinner Mitchell Santner bowled dot ball after dot ball. Pace bowler Lockie Ferguson did the same.

Henry came back and bowled a fabulous over at the death.

And out-of-touch opener Martin Guptill produced a trademark devastating piece of fielding when he ran Dhoni out with a direct hit.

If we doubted - we don't now.

Add a Comment

 

september_carousel_header.jpg

september_carousel_footer.jpg