By Niall Anderson in Manchester
He has had a wretched Cricket World Cup at the top of the order, but Black Caps batsman Martin Guptill still found a way to be a match-winner when it was needed most.
With 25 runs required from 10 balls, Indian talisman MS Dhoni was attempting to pull off yet another calculated chase, to send his team into a World Cup final. Lockie Ferguson had just been creamed over point for six – a ridiculously good shot – and the Black Caps weren't yet out of the woods, despite their phenomenal bowling effort in defending their first-innings total of 239-8.
With Dhoni still at the crease, anything could happen, and as Ferguson dug in another shorter delivery – well-directed this time – Dhoni could only unconvincingly slap it away behind square leg. He sprinted off, as fast as his 38-year-old, 350-ODI legs could manage, turned, and came back to attempt a second run.
His rival was Guptill. Storming in from the deep, he slowed to smoothly pick up the ball in his right hand, wound up, and hurled the ball towards the only stump in his sightline.
There was no wicketkeeper to aid him, but Guptill didn't need one – sending the bails flying, and Dhoni back to the pavilion, carrying India's hopes of victory with him.
It was a perfect throw, at a perfect time, and one which made a conversation held yesterday between Guptill and good friend and teammate Ross Taylor seem inspired.
"We talked about it after he missed out [on runs] yesterday – saying 'Just go out and do something brilliant'," Taylor recalled.
"You've got to feel for anyone in that situation, he's not batting as well as he'd like and he's low on confidence and you've got to pump his tires up as much as possible.
"To have the confidence to do that in a semifinal – I'm sure that and Jimmy [Neesham]'s catch will be played over and over in New Zealand - and hopefully that's the bit of luck that Gup needs to take that from his fielding into his batting."
Even if not, Guptill's moment – effectively securing New Zealand's spot in the World Cup final – will stand on its own in New Zealand's World Cup history, after Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja had combined for a World Cup-record 116-run seventh wicket partnership to drag India back into the contest in their chase of 240 for victory.
It was a partnership that had Taylor starting to worry, even after Jadeja finally departed for a 59-ball 77, caught off the bowling of Trent Boult.
"It was a nerve-wracking moment, [Jadeja] came out and it was like he was batting on a different wicket, he took a lot of pressure off Dhoni. Because they lost those early wickets we knew we were only one wicket away – that if we could get Jadeja or Dhoni that we could open an end up and create pressure on that new batsman. It took a lot longer than we would have liked, they batted incredibly well – a 100 partnership in a pressure situation."
That pressure had shifted back onto New Zealand's shoulders, and when the ball was slapped to the onrushing Guptill, it was time for him to produce a moment that Taylor joked had been a long time coming for his expectant Black Caps teammates.
"The boys were joking out there that 'Gup – he always misses the stumps. When there's a run out on, he always misses the stumps.' It was Tim [Southee] who said 'After all those misses over the years, he only hits when you actually don't need to worry about it' – but he didn't [this time], and the boys celebrated accordingly and were very happy for him."
Possibly none more so than Taylor, whose pep talk turned out to be on the money as Guptill produced a moment of magic.
"We talked about it before the game; we talked about doing something special in the field, whether it was a catch or a run out.
"It happened to be a run out - to break India's hearts."
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