In a unique ICC Cricket World Cup match that spanned two days due to rain, the odds had been in India's favour throughout New Zealand's innings on Tuesday and early parts of Wednesday. But the Kiwis produced an inspired performance to tilt the balance and beat the two-time champions India by 18 runs at Old Trafford, Manchester.
Chasing a target of 240 runs, Ravindra Jadeja and MS Dhoni did their best, but once they were out, India were found wanting in a yet another big game. Remember, India's 2015 semi-final defeat to eventual champions Australia, and that humiliating defeat loss to arch-rivals Pakistan in the final of ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
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Here, we present you five reasons why India lost to New Zealand:
1. New Zealand: Give credit where its due. New Zealand were brilliant. They showed character and the fight to survive a tense finish. After a very bad start to their innings, they managed to post a fighting total of 239, which looked paltry at first sight. But once their defence started, it began growing, and finally proved just about enough against the favourites. Orchestrating their win was the captain Kane Williamson, who scored valuable 67 runs in 95 balls, then marshaled his troops brilliantly. And the faith he put in the team made all the difference, with individual players giving their all. Matt Henry's spell, Martin Guptill's direct hit, James Neesham's brilliant catch and also veteran Ross Taylor's gritty knock were some of the notable feats. They sure deserved to be playing back-to-back World Cup finals.
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2. India's Poor Start To The Chase: No team has lost the top three for identical scores of one runs each. Matt Henry rocked India by taking both the openers -- Rohit Sharma (tournament's top run-scorer and the only batsman to hit five centuries in a single World Cup edition) and KL Rahul. Then Trent Boult removed Virat Kohli (world's best batsman) to leave India at 5/3 inside the first four overs. For a team which is heavily reliant on good starts, courtesy a very fragile and uncertain middle-order, it was the worst possible start. India never recovered from that early jolt. And despite the best efforts from Ravindra Jadeja and MS Dhoni, India were always playing a chasing game. The angst in the Indian camp was foretelling.
3. Dhoni Batting Too Low: The former captain, despite recent criticisms against him, produced a fine knock. But sending him at number seven was probably the biggest blunder made by Kohli and the team management during this campaign. Had Dhoni started little early, probably at four, the experienced player could have laid the foundation, just like what Ross did for the Kiwis. When Dhoni finally arrived in the centre, India were 71/5 in 22.5 overs, leaving him with the tail. Interestingly, Ravindra Jadeja played the innings of his life to revive India's hopes. In the end, Dhoni and Jadeja failed to correct the team management's 'blunder'.
4. Reckless Batting: Both Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya, promoted ahead of Dhoni, showed their intent for a long-haul fight. They even got the starts, but instead of settling down and looking at the large picture, the youngsters showed their recklessness by playing loose shots. With their hitting prowess, they needed to occupy the pitch for a late onslaught, which Dhoni and Jadeja did try. Just consider one of them batting with Dhoni in the last ten overs.
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5. Rain: After asking to bowl first, they exploited the conditions very well on Tuesday and in fact, were cruising. Then, the rain played its part in deciding the fate of the match, by halting India's momentum. India were all set to wrap up the Kiwi innings, but the interruption and subsequently the suspension made them wait for another morning. Who wants to stop a fight while winning?