posted on 2019-07-11 08:37:47
posted by Sahil Jain
Image Courtesy: Twitter/@cricketworldcup
Chasing 240 in a World Cup semi-final was always going to be tricky. Moreover, with the pitch being under covers for a large part, the batting was never going to be easy. However, nobody expected the dramatic top-order collapse that India had.
19 balls into the chase, Matt Henry and Trent Boult ripped through the famed Indian top three and left them reeling at 5 for 3. That soon turned into 24 for 4 at the end of the powerplay. However, you can never count anybody out. India had the firepower in the middle. In Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja, the ‘Men in Blue’ had a pretty good middle order.
It was all down to them. And barring MS Dhoni, all the other three treat spin with disdain and with the Kiwi pace attack doing so well, India had to go after left-arm spinner, Mitchell Santner. However, he had other ideas.
He had watched his counterpart Ravindra Jadeja bowl a beautiful spell on this pitch, finishing with 1/34 in his 10 overs. Santner though didn’t have to do much. The pressure was on and all he had to do was maintain that pressure and not leak runs. However, he did more than just that.
Containing was one part and no other bowler contained like him. But he picked up maybe the two biggest hitters in this Indian batting line-up, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya.
Santner came on to bowl in the 21st over. Pandya and Pant had rebuilt nicely. The duo were a going along well and just about starting to pick up some pace. However, they hit the Santner roadblock which never allowed them to build on that promising partnership.
First up, he bowled a maiden to Pandya. There was absolutely no delivery in the slot. The left-handed all-rounder held it up nicely and bowled the perfect length and line. In his next over, he bowled four dots to Pant. The pressure was built and you could sense something had to give. Pant crumbled and lost patience as he went after the widest delivery of the over and holed out at deep mid-wicket. There, the promising stand lasted 47 runs and India’s fightback hit a roadblock.
He gave his first run off his 18th delivery and missed out on bowling three successive maidens. Then there was MS Dhoni who walked out and Santner knew he tends to struggle against spin. He kept bowling on and on and on, hitting that perfect line and length, never allowing any Indian batsmen to get under him. There was absolutely no room or width either.
The pressure built up once again and the asking rate was climbing. Santner’s first five overs cost just five runs and Pandya felt he needed to do something. The Indian all-rounder slogged one across the line and top-edged it to Kane Williamson (at mid-wicket) who took a good catch. There, he nipped out and outsmarted both Indian big-hitters and both of them were looking good.
That over where he dismissed Pandya wicket turned out to be his last over of the spell. 6-2-7-2! You couldn’t ask for more. The Indian batsmen just couldn’t get him away. He came back for another spell and Jadeja hit him for a couple of sixes but barring that there was absolutely nothing from Santner.
He finished 10-2-34-2! Yes, the New Zealand fast bowlers set the tone first up. But it was Santner who not only maintained that pressure but further intensified it as well. At no point did he give any loose deliveries. 39 dot balls and 16 singles off his 10 overs. He didn’t get as much turn as Jadeja did but he got the job done for New Zealand.
Remember, Santner hasn’t had the best of World Cups. In nine games, he bowled 54 overs and picked up just four wickets. His strike-rate and average were not worth looking at. In favourable conditions against Pakistan, he failed to deliver.
However, when the stakes were high and on the big day when it mattered the most, he stood up and delivered. Santner choked India in the middle overs and helped New Zealand to win the ticket to the final.