By Niall Anderson in Manchester
Not many people thought they could do it. Fewer still thought it was possible after the first innings. But the Black Caps knew better.
They had witnessed the difficulties of the Old Trafford wicket first-hand while batting. They knew that their total of 239-8 was defendable. And, they knew the firepower they had, ready to be unleashed with the new ball.
They were certain they could shock India and progress to the Cricket World Cup final.
It was understandable for anyone else to have doubts. The Black Caps had come into the semifinals on the back of three straight defeats in pool play, two of them by hefty margins, and their backs were against the wall, with India the looming force, ready to corner them.
But, as batsman Ross Taylor tells it, it's in those situations where the Black Caps possess a special talent at finding a way out.
"No one really gave us a shot here.
"We were quietly confident, when our backs are against the wall it's quite often when we play at our best. We talked about that after we lost to England – we've got nothing to lose, so go out there, sum up the situation and enjoy it.
"We've got a few level heads from winning a World Cup semifinal at home [in 2015]. We trusted ourselves."
That included trusting their instincts, with Taylor and skipper Kane Williamson producing a slow but steady partnership yesterday before rain fell to extend the semifinal to a second day. Their stand – 65 off 102 balls – led to questions about whether their approach was too conservative, but Taylor, who eventually made 74 from 90 balls, revealed that they knew 240 would be a defendable total considering the awkward conditions.
It did give him a restless night, though, knowing he had to resume on 211-5 with just 23 balls to get to that total.
"I woke up at 3.00 in the morning wondering how I was going to bat these last 23 balls. I texted my wife at about 5.00, I said 'I still can't go to bed' she said 'Oh dear', so I just turned my phone off.
"I had a terrible sleep, but my mindset was just to get to 240 as Kane and I discussed yesterday.
"I don't think too many pundits trusted our assessment of the wicket – but it was really tough, and we knew it would be very tough on a new batter coming in.
"So we thought the best way of getting there was to take it deep, give our power men in [Jimmy] Neesham and [Colin] de Grandhomme a platform to get to 240. We didn't quite get there, but 239 – we always knew we'd be a chance, but we needed to get early wickets and we did that fantastically well."
Fantastic might be an understatement, with Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik all back in the pavilion within the first 10 overs – a pivotal period which led to the Black Caps' eventual 18-run win.
And Taylor wasn't the least bit surprised at how it unfolded.
"We knew in the camp that we were good enough to be here and good enough to win. We wanted to prove to ourselves that we were good enough and it was nice to get across the line.
"Some people thought we didn't deserve to be there, with the net run rate, but we did ourselves proud.
"Hopefully we can do ourselves proud in a few days."
Win a trip to London for the Black Caps' big weekend
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Winner to be announced live on air after 8am on Radio Sport and at nzherald.co.nz on Friday morning.
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