Black Caps Fire Into Final
In a World Cricket Cup semi-final for the ages in Manchester, New Zealand’s Black Caps have spectacularly edged into the finals with a dramatic and unexpected win against super team India. Coming off three successive losses and dismal performances by the opening batsmen, New Zealand put on only a mildly competitive score of 238. Many New Zealand commentators and fans had written off the Black Caps chances against classy India. Dull, boring and disappointing were some of the adjectives thrown at the Black Caps. Many expected them to wimp out of the semi. But a devastating opening spell of bowling and fielding had India on the ropes at 5 for 3 and them 24-4, with man-of-the-match Matt Henry . The partnership between Jadeja and Dhoni added 127 runs, putting India into a credible winning position, especially with the large Indian crowd behind them. It took a magical piece of precision fielding by troubled opening batsman Martin Guptill with a direct hit on the bails from deep backward square to runout Dhoni and shatter India’s chances.
The rocket-arm throw from Guptill – along with Jimmy Neesham’s catch of Karthik – will make the highlights reel of this and any World Cup. In photos from the player’s pavilion Guptill was the picture of solitary dejection after a series of battling failures, but his singular play of genius will erase those memories and likely return the moxie to his opening stand in Sunday’s final against the winner of England vs. Australia. Captain Kane Williamson again partnered with Ross Taylor to put on 141 runs between them, well over half of New Zealand’s total. Williamson’s reputation for calm confidence and stewardship of his team took a knock after the three previous losses, though he will not likely get excited about the prospect to winning – only the actualization of it. There is one more job to do.
At its best cricket is a game of ecstasy and agony. In the 2015 World Cup, New Zealand produced several moments of ecstasy, generating acres of justifiably florid match reporting from cricket correspondents. In 2019 the reporting hadn’t reached agony but certainly angst, along the lines of “it’s time we need to talk about Martin.” But Guptill, Henry, Boult, Taylor, Neesham, Williamson and their colleagues today produced a redemption story to put the Black Caps in contention for the World Cup. As The Guardian’s match blogger put it, “you’d need thousands and thousands of words to tell the full story of a marvellous, nuanced match. It placed unreasonable demands on the brain, gut, heart, nerves, eyes and soul – and that’s just for the neutral supporters.”