Rain was the major actor at Old Trafford yesterday, but unlike in the group stages it will probably not have the final say when the first World Cup semifinal between New Zealand and India will resume at 10:30 am (3:30 pm Bangladesh time) on the reserve day today. New Zealand will resume on 211 for five in the 47th over, with 23 balls left for Ross Taylor to take the score as close to 250 as possible.
There are reserve days for the semifinals and final, and fortunately for a tournament already marred by four rain-ruined matches in the group stage, there is no rain forecast for today.
Rain forced a break in play at around 2:00pm yesterday, and while the lightness of the drizzle caused many at the ground to believe that a resumption was imminent, the intensity increased around 3:00pm. A 20-over match, which would require India to chase 148 for a place in their fourth World Cup final, was still possible when the rain had abated at around 5:30pm. A final inspection was set for 6:10pm, and when it had started raining by then, play was finally suspended.
While Indian fans may rejoice at the fact that the match would not be reduced to a 20-overs-a-side affair as they have seemingly bowled themselves to a strong position, it may not be straightforward even for a strong Indian batting lineup.
In all five matches at Lancashire’s cricket headquarters this World Cup, the side batting first have emerged winners, which is why Kane Williamson had no hesitation in choosing to bat first at the toss. Perhaps more importantly, the pitch proved to be a difficult one to bat as New Zealand struggled to lift their run rate near the end of the innings.
Some of the deliveries from India’s left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal were turning square, and it was one such, in the 36th over, that caused the downfall of New Zealand’s batting lynchpin Williamson to leave the score at 134 for three. As they had done so often in the World Cup before, Taylor and Williamson had built a crucial 65-run third-wicket stand when a big turner from Chahal caught the edge of Williamson’s drive and looped to point.
That Williamson took 95 balls to score 67 was an indication of the surface’s slowness as well as the spot-on bowling from India‘s well-oiled attack.
Despite the slow pitch, the fearsome Jasprit Bumrah was once again a major threat and inflicted the first damage on the Kiwis. After Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Bumrah each started off with maiden overs, a rising delivery in the off-stump channel from the latter in the fourth over caught the outside edge of Martin Guptill and India skipper Virat Kohli took a sharp catch at slip to have the Kiwis on one for one. Henry Nicholls and Williamson slowly took the team to 69 in the 19th over when a flat and sharp-spun Jadeja delivery weaved through Nicholls’s defence and bowled him for a 51-ball 28.
After Williamson’s dismissal, Taylor had set his stall to bat through the innings, while James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme fell to Hardik Pandya and Kumar respectively while trying to lift the scoring rate.
Taylor was unbeaten on 67 off 85 balls with Tom Latham batting on three, and New Zealand will resume today knowing that -- boasting one of the most balanced and disciplined bowling attacks -- some quick runs may help them make a contest of this semifinal.