Daily Mail

Shami and greatest showman team up to crush the Kiwis

- Lawrence Booth in Kolkata

India brushed aside the Mumbai pitch controvers­y to roar into the World Cup final as Virat Kohli confirmed his status as the most prolific white-ball batsman of all time, and Mohammed Shami as the tournament’s most dangerous bowler.

Kohli became the first player to tick off 50 Odi centuries — moving one clear of his idol Sachin Tendulkar, who led the applause at the Wankhede Stadium — before Shami claimed seven for 57, the best one-day figures in india’s history. it all added up to complete a 70-run win over a gutsy but outclassed new Zealand, despite a courageous 134 from daryl Mitchell.

There was also a sparkling hundred for Shreyas iyer from just 67 balls — 39 fewer than Kohli had required — as india racked up an imposing 397 for four.

Rohit Sharma’s team were briefly worried by a third-wicket stand of 181 in 25 overs between Kane Williamson and Mitchell. But Shami turned the game decisively in india’s favour by removing Williamson and Tom Latham in three balls, and new Zealand couldn’t keep up with a steep asking-rate. They were eventually dismissed for 327.

On a day when the pre-match talk was dominated by Mail Sport’s story that the home authoritie­s had engineered a late change of pitch, india underlined why they need never have got involved with such shenanigan­s in the first place.

They’ve been so far ahead of every other team at this World Cup that they could have beaten new Zealand — who at one point during the group stage lost four matches in a row — on any surface.

in fact, one of cricket’s rules of thumb is that the better the pitch, the more likely the stronger team are to prevail. instead, both captains noted the slow-looking nature of the surface at the toss, and new Zealand introduced leftarm spinner Mitchell Santner as early as the sixth over.

Commentati­ng on TV, the former indian wicketkeep­er dinesh Karthik voiced the thoughts of many when he warned that new Zealand’s spinners posed the biggest threat: ‘if i were Team india, all that matters is how am i going to take on Mitchell Santner and Rachin Ravindra.’

in the event, the Wankhede pitch played better than anyone expected. and if india treated Santner with caution, they took 186 runs off the 20 overs sent down by new Zealand’s veteran new-ball pairing of Trent Boult and Tim Southee.

This was india’s 10th victory in a row at a tournament where they have only occasional­ly been inconvenie­nced.

if they make it 11 on Sunday against either australia or South africa, who meet in Kolkata today, they will lift their first World Cup in either format since winning the 50-over edition on home soil in 2011. Both potential opponents will have noted the indians’ passive body language as Williamson and Mitchell hung around. But it says much for their domination of the last six weeks that these passages of play seem so remarkable — and everything for Shami’s class that he was the bowler Sharma turned to in his hour of need.

Shami now has 23 wickets in this World Cup, at an absurd average of nine.

By and large, this tournament has been a procession for india, with captain Sharma last night giving his team yet another turbocharg­ed start.

Though Kohli will again steal the headlines, his task was made easier by Sharma’s selflessne­ss, bashing 47 off 29 balls to draw the early sting from new Zealand’s attack. The 550 runs he has made in this World Cup at a strike-rate of 124 are one of the many reasons india have thrived.

Shubman Gill limped off with cramp on 79, though he returned to face one ball in the final over. But the crowd had come to watch Kohli, and he didn’t disappoint.

after reaching 50 for the eighth time in 10 innings, he moved with apparent inevitabil­ity towards three figures, passing Tendulkar’s record for the most runs at a single World Cup — 673 in 2003 — en route.

When he brought up his century, he removed his helmet and dropped to his knees, as if overcome by the statistica­l significan­ce. it felt almost heretical to point out that the more audacious batting came from iyer, who raced to his second century in four days.

Shami then removed openers devon Conway and Ravindra in his first two overs, and new Zealand never quite recovered from a sluggish 10-over powerplay score of 46 for two.

Mitchell gave it a go, hitting seven sixes to iyer’s eight, but the depth of india’s attack kept new Zealand at arm’s length, and Shami wrapped up a memorable night in front of an adoring crowd.

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Jumping for joy: Kohli revels in another ton
GETTY IMAGES Jumping for joy: Kohli revels in another ton
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