Weather played spoilsport in Manchester with the first 2019 ICC World Cup semi-final between India and New Zealand ultimately deferred to a reserve day.
The Kiwis were batting at 211-5 in 46.1 overs after skipper Kane Williamson elected to bat first before rain halted proceedings at Old Trafford. They will now resume from the same score on Wednesday although the weather forecast for Wednesday isn’t too promising either.
New Zealand’s start with the bat was a poor and circumspect one with Martin Guptill’s woeful run of form continuing. The Kiwis were able to muster just the 27 runs in the first 10 overs with Jasprit Bumrah accounting for Guptill’s wicket.
Skipper Kane Williamson (67) battled hard once again through partnerships with Henry Nicholls and then Ross Taylor as he brought up his fourth 50-plus score of the tournament.
However, Williamson and the Kiwi batsmen were kept at bay for the most part by a disciplined and probing bowling display by India. Williamson’s gritty stay was ended by Yuzvendra Chahal just when the New Zealand skipper was threatening to up the ante.
Taylor brought up his third half-century of the World Cup campaign as New Zealand tried to regain a foothold in the game but they were pegged back once again with Colin de Grandhomme’s dismissal before rain brought a frustrating end to the play.
India show their bowling might again
It was yet another highly disciplined bowling effort from India with all five bowlers playing their part.
Right from the get go, India’s new-ball duo of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were on the money with New Zealand’s openers stifled for room with some excellent lines and lengths.
That early intensity was kept up by Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja and Yuzvendra Chahal when they came on to bowl with the Kiwi batsmen finding run-scoring hard to come by.
New Zealand’s struggles against India’s bowling was exemplified by the fact that they played as many as 153 dot deliveries which make up more than 25 overs of their innings.
It was relentless stuff from India’s bowlers and a performance that will please skipper Kohli no end.
The all-rounder was rewarded for his excellent showing in the Sri Lanka clash with a semi-final appearance and he vindicated that decision with a superb bowling display.
His left-arm orthodox spin worked a treat on a slowing pitch and the grip he extracted from the surface had the batsmen in two minds. His delivery to castle Henry Nicholls’ stumps was a peach and the Kiwi opener was completely deceived by the flight and dip on the ball.
He finished with overall figures of 1-34 from his 10 overs in the course of which he bowled a staggering 38 dot balls.
India to go through if no more play
With the weather forecast for Wednesday in Manchester not looking too bright, there is a possibility that no result will be able to be determined even after a reserve day.
In that case, India will advance to the July 14 final at Lord’s due to the fact that they finished higher than New Zealand in the round-robin phase of the tournament. India had topped the table while the Black Caps had finished in fourth spot.
Ben Stokes is treating England’s World Cup semi-final against Australia as the most important game of his career.
The England all-rounder is no stranger to the big stage, turning out for his country on 166 occasions across all formats and memorably stepping up to bowl the final over of the World Twenty20 final in front of 66,000 fans in 2016.
That did not go to plan, with West Indies all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite snatching an unlikely victory by clubbing Stokes for four sixes in a row, but Thursday’s game at Edgbaston represents something even bigger for the 28-year-old.
The opposition are England’s oldest and bitterest rivals, the prize on offer is once-in-a-generation game at Lord’s and the trophy waiting at the end is one the national side have spent 44 years chasing in vain.
Asked if the game ahead was the biggest he has experienced, Stokes said: “Yes, to date. Definitely.
“It’s a massive occasion for us as players and as a nation. Playing against Australia is a big occasion– in any sport. The rivalry goes way back and we have the Ashes this summer too. Beating them is that touch better than any other team.”
“I’ve had a few days off and got out of the bubble but when you come back to the team you get those butterflies again.”
England have dominated the last two one-day series against Australia, winning home and away as they established a win-loss record of 10-1 heading into the competition. The form book counted for nothing in the group stage, though, with the visitors landing a 64-run victory.
“Losing to them at Lord’s was massively disappointing so I think there will be a bit of redemption for that, knowing we have the chance to beat them and get to that final,” predicted Stokes.
He is less inclined to see the game as a chance for personal redemption. Having missed the last Ashes defeat Down Under following his well-documented brawl in Bristol – an incident that concluded with his acquittal on a charge of affray – he was welcomed back with warm, unconditional support from his team-mates.
“I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anyone except myself,” he said.
“It opened my eyes up to a lot of things, two years ago, but I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. It’s just showing I can deliver on the biggest stage.
“Winning is the most important thing and if you can help the team out with an individual performance, that’s all that counts. People can say good things, bad things…it just won’t bother me.”
Australia have two players of their own who have had to deal with their share of public comment, David Warner and Steve Smith.
The pair are still just a matter of weeks into their comebacks after year-long bans for the sandpaper scandal and have been on the end of some icy welcomes from the British public. Warner in particular has thrived in the circumstances, scoring three centuries and three fifties in the tournament, while Smith has managed three half-centuries.
“I have huge respect for them for performing like they have coming back, being able to block all that out,” said Stokes.
“Respect to them for dealing with on-field pressures and the crowds, while still delivering.”
Stokes has also been standing tall in the tournament, averaging over 50 with the bat and under 30 with the ball.
Those numbers underline his importance to the side but it is another – an economy rate of just 4.65 making him England’s stingiest bowler – that gives him most satisfaction.
“It’s always nice to get runs but the most pleasing thing has been my bowling,” he said.
“I had a chat with Morgs (captain Eoin Morgan) and a few others in the team to get my head around my role. Being fourth or fifth seamer, I sometimes put too much pressure on myself to influence the game.
“So I spoke to them about not trying to take wickets every ball. That’s helped offer the team more. In the last couple of years it’s probably where I have let the team down.”
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Liam Plunkett has warned Australia that England are a “different sort of animal” to their predecessors.
The Ashes rivals meet in a hotly-anticipated World Cup semi-final at Edgbaston on Thursday, with Australia looking to continue their bid for a sixth title while England hope to stay in the hunt for their first.
In terms of tournament experience, the away side hold all the cards, as well as victories in the last four World Cup matches between the teams, but Plunkett says times have changed.
“They’ve been there and done it before but not against this bunch of players,” he said.
“We’re a different sort of animal compared to our last teams. We’ve played well for the past four years, we’re ranked number one and we feel in a good place. We feel on our day we can beat anyone in the world.”
Plunkett is the elder statesman of the current England squad, making his international bow as far back as 2005 and earning his previous taste of World Cup cricket 12 years ago in the West Indies.
He has had a front-row seat to the evolution of England’s one-day cricket and has never known a better mood.
“We had amazing players (previously) but I never thought we’d win a World Cup,” he said.
“We’ve made it exciting again. I’ve played in teams where we didn’t expect to win. With this squad the public expect us to win games and win series. It would be nice to finish this four-year cycle. This journey we’ve been on, with this group of boys, it comes down to this.”
At 34, Plunkett is unlikely to see service in four years’ time when the event heads to India, meaning the next few days represent the grandest stage of his career.
“I think so,” he agreed. “I don’t think I’ll play another World Cup so for me personally, it’s the biggest,” he said.
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