Let us take the positives. How wise of the ICC to schedule a reserve day for the semi-finals. At 2pm, with 3.5 overs of the New Zealand innings left, it began to rain at Old Trafford and it continued for four hours, whereupon the umpires had no alternative but to bring the players back on Wednesday morning to complete the match.
It was a struggle for the Kiwis to get that far and as usual they were indebted to the calm grittiness of their senior players, captain Kane Williamson and one of his predecessors, Ross Taylor. Drawing on their vast experience, they obviously decided a modern target in excess of 300 was out of the question on a surface that gave some assistance to the seamers and spinners. Their progress was also stalled by a vibrant Indian side in the field, so vibrant that once they conceded two sets of overthrows from a single delivery.
With Jasprit Bumrah setting an impeccable example once again there were very few cheap runs on offer. At the toss Virat Kohli announced a conservative side in the sense that it transpired that he had picked the bowlers who bat better than their peers. Ravindra Jadeja retained his place to make his second appearance of the tournament and Bhuvneshwar Kumar was preferred to Mohammed Shami. However, this did not seem to reduce the effectiveness of his bowling attack. Both Jadeja and Kumar were on target from the start of their spells.
In fact Kumar thought he had a wicket with the first ball of the match. He sought a review against Martin Guptill, which proved a mistake. The upshot of that was that India had used up their review with 49.5 overs of the Kiwi innings remaining.
Given Guptill’s current form it may have been wiser to save the review for someone else. He barely middled a ball from Kumar or Bumrah before edging to Kohli at second slip.
So Williamson began his restoration act early again and he took his time alongside Henry Nicholls. After 10 overs the Kiwis had only 27 on the board and their captain did not seem in the least worried by that – though it is hard to tell what Williamson is thinking out there. He just kept playing the ball on its merits.
The partnership was worth 68 when Nicholls was bowled by a Jadeja delivery that had eyes popping. Despite this being a fresh pitch the ball turned surprisingly through the left-hander’s gate. Now Taylor and Williamson continued with a cagey approach. For more than 13 overs there were no boundaries, a sequence ended by a pulled drive by Williamson against Yuzvendra Chahal, who proved the most expensive bowler in Kohli’s quintet.
Williamson’s half-century took 79 balls and he was seeking acceleration when he was caught at cover off Chahal; he paused briefly and stared at the surface to suggest it had betrayed him. Taylor hit the solitary six of the innings in between seeing Colin de Grandhomme and Jimmy Neesham come and go. From the 40-over mark onwards there was a hint of acceleration. And then the rain came.
So there was much sitting and speculating. It was established that, if a 20-over match had been possible to complete the semi-final on Tuesday India’s target would have been 148.
Although the abandonment at 6.20pm was a disappointment, the outcome of the game should have more credibility if both sides have their 50-over quota available, which will now be the case – assuming the Manchester weather is more cooperative on Wednesday.
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