Making the big stage his own, Virat Kohli added more lustre to his larger than life persona with a historic 50th ODI century that extended India’s bullish World Cup run to the title clash even as New Zealand threatened to spoil the home team’s party with a lion-hearted fight, here Wednesday.
The semifinal tilted heavily in India’s favour after Rohit Sharma’s team put on board a massive 397 for four, bulldozing the Kiwi attack but before the hosts romped home by 70 runs for an unprecedented 10th win in a row, New Zealand did cause considerable anxiety in home team’s camp. It was Daryl Mitchell’s valiant 134 off 119 balls that had the Indian hearts racing as the equation became a gettable 112 from 54-balls with six wickets in hand but Kuldeep Yadav delivered under pressure a price-less two-run 42nd over that released the pressure.
Pacer Mohammed Shami, who had scalped top four Kiwi batters earlier, then sealed the fate of the Kiwis by ending Mitchell’s belligerent knock and ended up with a gold-standard seven-wicket haul.
Shami is serving reminders of his class in each and every game since making the playing XI after being left out initially and he only made it bigger at the big stage.
When it was alleged that India tried to take advantage by opting for spin-friendly track, it was a fast bowler that made the ball talk.
New Zealand folded for 327 in 48.5 overs and India rejoiced a hard-earned memorable victory with yet another team effort, that earned them a shot at their third ODI world title.
A fearless Rohit Sharma (47 off 29) dented the confidence of New Zealand bowlers with his ultra-risk, power-packed knock that blew away the pressure of the big semifinal, leaving the stage for Kohli (117) to conjure up the knock that perched him atop a mountain from where displacing him does not seem possible for a long time to come.
Shreyas Iyer not only watched Kohli take the crown from his idol, Sachin Tendulkar (49 ODI centuries), from the best seat in the house but he himself made a huge contribution in India raising a mammoth total, albeit his knock of 105 was overshadowed due to the sheer significance of Kohli’s milestone mark.
New Zealand has always been a big-match team and it fought through Mitchell and inspiring leader Kane Williamson (69) but in the end their efforts only saved them from the ignominy of losing by a bigger margin.
Rachin Ravindra (13) and Devon Conway imploded under pressure and the Kiwis did not get the kind start which is required for such targets.
FOURTH ODI WORLD CUP FINAL FOR INDIA
India have now reached the ODI World Cup final for the fourth time, having won the trophy in 1983 and 2011.
India had ended runners-up in 2003 and will know their title clash rival on Thursday when five-time champions Australia clash with South Africa at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.