WELLINGTON: New Zealand’s victory over heavy favourites India in the Cricket World Cup semi-finals was as surprising to fans at home as it was to the thousands of Indian supporters at Old Trafford and millions more watching on television.
Kane Williamson’s side produced an 18-run victory over India to advance to Sunday’s final at Lord’s against either Australia or hosts England.
They also made the 2015 final in Melbourne where they lost to the hosts.
“Miracle in Manchester”, several media outlets used as the headlines for their online reports on Thursday, with special praise reserved for a one-handed catch by James Neesham and a run out by Martin Guptill that swung the game in their favour.
The New Zealand Herald said Guptill’s run out of Dhoni, arguably the world’s best finisher in ODI cricket, was redemption for a poor run of form with the bat, while Stuff Media said he had gone “From zero to hero”.
Just a few hours earlier, few had given the team much hope after they stumbled into the semi-finals on the back of three successive losses.
Opting to bat first in the rain-hit contest played over two days, New Zealand’s 239 for eight looked far from imposing against India’s formidable batting lineup.
Superb swing bowling by Matt Henry and Trent Boult, however, reduced India to 5-3 before arguably the catch of the tournament by Neesham left the 2011 champions in trouble at 24-4.
A 116-run partnership between Ravindra Jadeja (77) and MS Dhoni brought India back into the game and the pair looked well set to launch in the final three overs.
Jadeja’s dismissal in the 48th over, then Dhoni’s run out from a direct hit by Guptill four balls later effectively ended India’s chances of reaching the 240 needed. They were bowled out for 221 with three balls remaining.
Fans in New Zealand stayed up into the early hours of Thursday watching the India innings unfold, with the country’s Sports Minister Grant Robertson providing a running commentary on his Twitter feed.
“One for the true believers,” Robertson, who is also the country’s finance minister, wrote at the conclusion of the match. “What a game from Kane Williamson with bat and with captaincy. How proud? PROUD.”
Robertson’s fellow politicians in Britain for their own Parliamentary Cricket World Cup told Radio New Zealand they had descended on a local pub to watch the game and erupted into cross-party hugs and high fives after the result.
Grant Elliott, who hit a six off the penultimate ball in the 2015 semi-final against South Africa that propelled them to the final against Australia, had a message for the team.
“Finals time!” the all-rounder wrote on Twitter.
“Let’s go one better than 2015.”