India 274 for 6 (Kohli 95, Rohit 46, Jadeja 39*, Ferguson 2-63) beat New Zealand 273 (Mitchell 130, Ravindra 75, Shami 5-54, Kuldeep 2-73) by four wickets
The lack of batting depth was counterbalanced, however, by the increased menace of India’s pace attack, who played a starring role in bowling New Zealand out for 273 after they had been 178 for 2 at one stage. Shami, playing his first game of the tournament, led the way with his second five-wicket haul in World Cups, his bullying of New Zealand’s lower order the centerpiece of a superlative effort by India in the last 10 overs, where they took six wickets while conceding just 54.
Each of Shami’s wickets seemed to come with a question attached to it: “You’re keeping me on the bench?” He struck first ball after coming on as first change, getting Will Young to play on with a typically upright-seamed inducker. Then he broke the Mitchell-Ravindra stand with an offcutter into the pitch. And he ended New Zealand’s hopes of getting near or past 300, effectively, by splattering the stumps of Mitchell Santner and Henry with consecutive balls in the 48th over.
Chasing a significantly smaller target than they may have envisaged at one stage, India began in typically ominous fashion, with Rohit Sharma hitting four sixes in a 40-ball 46 that dominated an opening stand of 71 with Shubman Gill. During this partnership, India extracted a strange sort of revenge for the Old Trafford semi-final of 2019, where their fast bowlers had caused as much trouble with the new ball as New Zealand’s quicks but ended up with significantly fewer early wickets. This time Henry beat both openers’ bats repeatedly – including Gill three times in a row – and Trent Boult saw an edge from Rohit fall short of slip, but there were no wickets in the first powerplay.
Thereafter it was all about Kohli, even though he typically did most of his work in the shadows – literally for a while when a spectral fog enveloped the ground, eventually stopping play for around 15 minutes. Kohli was the less-dominant partner in half-century stands for the third and fourth wickets, but where Shreyas Iyer fell to another short ball and KL Rahul played down the wrong line against Santner to be dismissed for the first time in the tournament, he endured, as he always does in run-chases.
Ever so often, Kohli imposed himself on the game with an incandescent shot: an on-the-up square drive off Lockie Ferguson to get off the mark; a charging, flourishing extra-cover drive off Henry to get to 40; and in between an inside-out loft for six off Ravindra to release whatever pressure New Zealand had put on him by keeping him to 28 off his first 47 balls.
From that point, Kohli scored 67 off 57 balls. A significant hiccup arrived when he got into a mix-up that sent back Suryakumar Yadav, but once Jadeja eased India’s fears over their lack of batting depth, the result became a formality.
New Zealand would have been disappointed at this because they had put themselves in a commanding position at one stage after India had sent them in. Ravindra and Mitchell had fought extremely hard to get them into that position, coming together after Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Shami had combined to reduce them to 19 for 2 in the ninth over.
Along the way, the two of them demonstrated to all other sides a method to combat India’s attack. Mitchell exemplified this with his calculated risk-taking, particularly at the start of overs. He mixed up his pre-ball movements against the fast bowlers, sometimes shuffling across his stumps and out of his crease, at other times stepping back towards his off stump, and manipulating line and length in this manner. Most telling, though, was his calculated assault on Kuldeep Yadav, to whom he used his feet multiple times to launch him down the ground. In all, he scored 43 runs off Kuldeep – the most any batter has scored against the left-arm wristspinner in an ODI innings – off just 28 balls.
Kuldeep conceded 48 in his first five overs, which would have worried India considerably, given that they didn’t have a sixth bowler. But the measure of Kuldeep’s skill and self-confidence came over his next five overs, in which he had Mitchell dropped at long-off, took two vital wickets – Tom Latham deceived by a flatter skidder and trapped plumb in front, Glenn Phillips caught off a miscue against the wrong’un – and conceded just 25.
Kuldeep’s display was an encapsulation of India’s day. They were put under intense pressure by a formidable opponent, but they trusted their methods and came out unscathed. This India side can be rattled, but for any side to beat them over the next four weeks will likely take a special effort of sustained excellence.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo