WELLINGTON: New Zealand’s victory over heavy favourites India in the World Cup semi-final 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.
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 Mahendra Singh 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’.
“Humble pie tasting good as Black Caps defy the odds,” sports columnist Duncan Johnstone wrote on the Stuff website after the nation had largely written off struggling New Zealand’s chances against a red-hot India.
Radio Sport declared it ‘eat your words Thursday’ after the sensational win at Old Trafford, while Stuff senior writer Mark Geenty called it “one of New Zealand’s best and most significant victories”.
Ahead of the critical knockout match, New Zealanders had largely consigned Kane Williamson and the Black Caps to the scrap heap after they stumbled into the semi-finals on the back of three successive losses.
They only qualified for the final four by having a better run-rate than Pakistan, although Pakistan had beaten New Zealand by six wickets and were seen by many critics and callers to talkback radio as more worthy semi-finalists.
Even former New Zealand great Daniel Vettori said before the toss at Old Trafford: “India remain my favourites to win it all.”
Instead it will be New Zealand who go into Sunday’s final against tournament England, the winners of the second semi-final against old foes Australia.
Former New Zealand Test batsman Craig Cumming, a co-host on Radio Sport, said he too believed New Zealand “would struggle to make the semi-finals, but sometimes when you’re playing poorly like they have you are dangerous.”
Johnstone, who had labelled the Black Caps’ batting ‘boring’ before the India clash, said there was “a need to acknowledge their brighter qualities — brilliant bowling, fabulous fielding and unquestionable character.”
James Nokise noted on Radio New Zealand: “That New Zealand were incapable of simply winning or losing. They insist on nail-biting, nerve-destroying, adrenalin-exhausting, rollercoasters that are edge-of-the-seat thrillers.”
The constant theme of calls to talk radio stations was an apology for even doubting New Zealand in the first place.
A man called Steve summed up the national feeling when he told Radio Sport: “What an absolute dickhead I was. I was wrong. Yay.
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.”
Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2019