By Niall Anderson in Manchester
The Black Caps have extended their stay at the Cricket World Cup – but not in the way they were intending.
For the first time in World Cup history, a semifinal is heading into a reserve day, with rain falling after 46.1 overs of the clash between New Zealand and India at Old Trafford in Manchester.
It didn't relent in time for the umpires to allow a reduced-overs game under Duckworth-Lewis-Stern, leaving the two teams to resume tomorrow; New Zealand at 211-5, with Ross Taylor on 67 and Tom Latham on three.
Potentially, a shortened game would have benefited the Black Caps. Had they managed to squeeze in a 20-over second innings, India would have been chasing 148, which could have been tricky on a wicket that the Black Caps struggled to master.
Tomorrow – with the weather forecast predicting a cloudy, rain-free day – the Black Caps will have 23 balls left in which to scrape somewhere near 250 – and such a total is unlikely to provide much fear for the Indian batting lineup.
Perhaps, though, the Black Caps' struggle to score quickly was more about the wicket's demons, as opposed to a continuation of their batting woes. But, considering the strength – and form – of India's top order, New Zealand will likely need a stellar bowling performance to defend their eventual total.
Once again, the Black Caps batsmen didn't deliver as they would have liked. Having won the toss and decided to bat, they nearly had the worst possible start, with Martin Guptill surviving an lbw review for what would have been his third first-ball duck of the tournament.
In hindsight, maybe he would have been better off departing first ball, as his eventual dismissal – for 1 off 14 balls – was part of a start which saw New Zealand slump to 2-1 after four overs, and 10-1 after seven.
It took 17 balls for their first run, and eight overs for the first boundary against the superb Indian new ball pairing of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuveshnuwar Kumar. The slowest powerplay of the tournament produced just 27 runs – playing their fewest attacking shots in the first 10 overs of an ODI since 2013 – as Henry Nicholls and Kane Williamson slowly built their innings.
68 runs were added from 93 balls, but just as he looked to make up for lost time, Nicholls was bowled by Ravindra Jadeja, for 28 off 51 balls.
That brought Williamson and Taylor to the crease – later than their partnership has formed recently – and while that usually leads to added impetus, it was surprisingly lacking.
Seeing off the opening bowlers after their slow start was a sound strategy, but only if you attacked India's remaining three bowlers. Hardik Pandya – vitally battling through a hip injury on his way to 1-55 – and Yuzvendra Chahal (1-63) were largely well dealt with, but Jadeja turned the screws.
As part of his figures of 1-34, Jadeja produced six overs which went for nine runs as Taylor proved particularly guilty of failing to rotate the strike. From overs 19-27, only 20 runs were mustered, while 81 balls also went by without a boundary, with the Black Caps languishing at 83-2 at the halfway mark.
Conditions were tough, granted, with plenty of spin on offer. Credit too, undoubtedly, to the Indian bowlers, who were terrific and offered little width or length for the batsmen to attack. A solid fielding effort added to New Zealand's malaise.
Williamson was still there, bringing up two milestones – another half-century, and the most runs for a New Zealander at a World Cup. However, he sliced a Chahal delivery to point on 67 (from 94 balls), and Jimmy Neesham (12 from 18) and Colin de Grandhomme (16 from 10) couldn't massively increase the run rate against the precise Indian attack.
Taylor remained – and needed to, to make up for his sluggish start – overturning an lbw dismissal and beginning to find the rope, to ensure he will walk to the crease on 67 when play resumes, more than 20 hours after he walked off. An uphill battle remains though, with 250 surely a minimum requirement to give their bowlers realistic hope of pulling off a historic victory.
The rain has given the Black Caps a second day to seal a spot in the final – but to make it from this position, they might need a performance that's second to none.
The Alternative Commentary Collective are podcasting their way through the World Cup. Known for their unconventional sports analysis and off-kilter banter, the ACC have come to ask the tough questions. Here's the latest episode of 'The Agenda':
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT