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Kohli, Iyer and Shami lead ‘too strong’ India to Cricket World Cup final

Inspired by Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami, India has overcome a valiant New Zealand fightback to enter the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 final on home soil.

India beat New Zealand by 70 runs on Wednesday in Mumbai after setting a target of 398 in the tournament’s first semifinal.

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The result seemed a formality when India, backed by a partisan home crowd at the Wankhede Stadium, pegged back New Zealand’s stiff chase by dismissing both their openers for 39 runs in the eighth over.

However, Daryl Mitchell struck a hard-fought blistering century to lead New Zealand’s fightback along with his captain, Kane Williamson, who scored 69 runs in a 181-run partnership.

But India, banking on the cushion of a huge total, opened the gates of the New Zealand batting with the wicket of Glenn Phillips and all but sealed the win with Mitchell’s dismissal in the 46th over.

Pace bowler Shami took seven wickets to make up for dropping Williamson’s catch earlier on.

Shami said his team were determined not to let the chance of winning a home World Cup slip out of their hands.

“We have come very close in the past, but this one chance we were not going to let go. Who knows when the next chance might come,” he said after winning the player of the match award.

Kohli keeps calm to break idol’s record

If the night belonged to Shami, the day belonged to Kohli, who assumed his place at the top of one-day international (ODI) greats with his 50th century in the format. The milestone took him past Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 49 ODI hundreds.

Having won the toss, India started brightly, led by captain Rohit Sharma.

The right-handed batter was the first to fall in the ninth over when he offered a chance to his opposite number, Williamson, off the bowling of Tim Southee for 47.

Fellow opener Shubman Gill appeared to be on his way to three figures until he was forced to limp off due to cramps. He would later return with the fall of Suryakumar Yadav to finish unbeaten on 80.

The innings, the match and quite possibly this World Cup may yet be all about Kohli, who remained calm and measured in his innings from the beginning.

He brought up his half-century in 59 balls. There was no rush to the century and a chance to stand alone in the history books.

When he finally brought it up in 106 balls, the fan favourite leaped up in joy before falling to the ground in joy and disbelief.

There was another centurion, Shreyas Iyer, who destroyed Kiwi dreams with eight sixes in a 70-ball innings.

Southee, who eventually snared Kohli for 117 as the big shots soared, registered a century of his own. His 10 overs claimed three wickets but went for an even 100.

‘No score is enough at Wankhede’

New Zealand’s reply, much like Devon Conway’s World Cup, struggled.

The opener fell to Shami for 13, and two overs later, Rachin Ravindra fell on the same score to the same bowler.

Shami’s emergence in replacing the injured, and crucial, Hardik Pandya in this Indian side has perhaps encapsulated best the hosts’ dominance and superiority as the rightly chosen favourites.

Williamson and Mitchell pushed the scoring in the first powerplay, which New Zealand could ill afford to lose as they looked to stabilise the chase.

India’s victorious captain, who was playing on his home ground, said “no score is enough” at the Wankhede.

“You cannot relax. You have got to get the job done as quickly as possible and stay at it.”

He touched on the tension in the air in Mumbai as New Zealand threatened to cause a huge upset.

“Mitchell and Williamson batted brilliantly, and for us, it was important to stay calm. At one point, the crowd went absolutely silent, but that is the nature of the game. We knew we had to pull something out.”

It was admirable in the face of a billion baying fans and 11 players determined to have their own date with destiny on Sunday at Ahmedabad.

India ‘too strong’

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the team on reaching their fourth final.

“Fantastic batting and good bowling sealed the match for our team,” Modi wrote in a post on X.

Meanwhile, Tendulkar hailed Shami for his seven-wicket spell, posting: “What a Shami-final!!!!!! Well done India for a superb batting display and a spectacular bowling performance to get into the final.”

Former England captain said the current Indian side is “too strong” and hailed Rohit for his captaincy.

Source: Al Jazeera

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