Virat Kohli’s record-breaking innings might be remembered as the “stuff of dreams” but it was Mohammed Shami who bowled India to their first ODI World Cup final for 12 years, as they secured a 70-run victory over New Zealand.
Kohli added yet another entry next to his name in the history books when he recorded his 50th ODI century, eclipsing the great Sachin Tendulkar, who scored 49, as India put on what proved to be a match-winning total of 397.
Shreyas Iyer’s innings might make for a more thrilling highlights reel than Kohli, his 105 from 70 included four fours and eight sixes, but Kohli’s shaped the entire innings. The former captain finished with 117, and a place at the top of the standings as India booked their place in the final.
When he reached the milestone, Kohli collapsed to the floor, bowed to the crowd and halfway through the match said: “The great man [Tendulkar] just congratulated me. All this feels like a dream to me, honestly. It’s too good to be true.”
At the end of the India innings, the result of the match never looked in doubt, but for the first time in the tournament, the hosts, who had cruised through the group stages winning all of their nine matches comfortably, were under a bit of pressure.
The wall of blue from the fans filling every seat of the stadium had just been muffled, and doubt was starting to creep into the hearts of the supporters and words of the commentators, but then Shami struck.
Kane Williamson and Daryl Mitchell had rescued New Zealand from the loss of two early wickets, both had reached milestones, and they were starting to hit sixes with ease. More concerningly for India was that mistakes which had not been seen all tournament were starting to emerge.
KL Rahul missed a chance to run out Williamson when he took the bails off with his glove before the ball arrived and he was handed a reprieve when Shami spilled a straightforward catch.
But with ball in hand and returning for his second spell, Shami claimed another wicket. Williamson was out, the crowd erupted, and the tide had turned.
Shami has had an outstanding tournament, and at times been utterly unplayable, reaching 50 ODI World Cup wickets faster than any other men’s player, and has been significant in India reaching the final, finishing with seven wickets for just 57 runs and he deservedly led his side off the field and into Sunday’s final.
Unfortunately for the Kiwis it was a brief resistance to try and change the outcome which was all but determined when India struck almost 400 runs, but they did not give up.
Mitchell batted against cramp, the heat, and the exceptional Indian attack to score 134 from 119, including the prolific partnership with Williamson. He hit the ball down the ground for numerous sixes, and did his best to try and find a way for New Zealand to get over the line but they ultimately finished 70 runs short.
In the final overs, with the equation standing at 98 from 34, Mitchell was unable to replicate Glenn Maxwell’s individual heroics that dragged Australia over the line against Afghanistan, despite his best efforts.
The tournament looks more open than it did during the group stages where India blew away all competition.
Against the Kiwis only Shami was able to strike against the top order and the experienced batters, and it was not until the final few overs of the game that other wickets started to fall.
The Kiwis remained resolute and took the game deeper than anyone expected, but it is India who will play at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Sunday, and it will take something impressive from either South Africa or Australia to be able to stop them lifting the trophy.