On Saturday the 28th of February, India were playing the UAE. No one expected the UAE to beat India but they hadn’t gone down without a fight thus far and were still supposed to give India a proper game. 80% of the crowd appeared to be India fans as they had all arrived early in anticipation of the India vs West Indies game on Friday the 6th. The UAE had posted 285 and 278 against Zimbabwe and Ireland respectively in their first two games. That may not sound impressive considering their oppositions but Zimbabwe had taken South Africa’s top four batsmen out for only 83 runs in their last game.
However it all unravelled for the UAE as their batsmen dropped like flies. They were only just able to muster 102 in 32 overs with the help of Shaiman Anwar who top scored with 35. Even the Indian fans were cheering when Anwar smashed a few boundaries. It looked all too easy for India as they picked off the UAE and then went on chase the total in 19 overs only losing one wicket. Tea was taken with 15 runs to go to try and extend the game for the fans but the stadium slowly emptied in the half hour as the result was inevitable.
The whole game lasted 50.2 overs. It was over before it had even started.
The day however had a stark opposite match going elsewhere. Australia were playing New Zealand. The two big dogs of the tournament. It was an epic low-scoring game of top class bowling. It may have been one of the shortest games of the tournament but it was the most thrilling.
The kiwis had been having an incredible run so far, their bowling attack had ripped though Scotland and England and they were hungry for more. Australia had only played one game in the tournament so far but had shown their worth in the Carlton Tri-series against India and England.
Australia were batting first and they got off to a blinder. Aaron Finch and David Warner smashed 30 off the first two overs. The start however, was unsustainable and Finch was bowled. Australia did not lose all their momentum though, Warner and Shane Watson continued and reached 80 runs before Watson was removed. Even at 80-2 from 13 overs it looked good for Australia, it looked like they were headed for a big score and that it would be an incredible chase from New Zealand. That was not the case. Daniel Vettori’s removal of Watson sparked something in the New Zealand bowlers and kicked off a chain reaction. Within nine overs, Australia had gone from 80-2 (a respectable start) to 106-9. It was an incredible collapse spearheaded by Trent Boult who picked off five wickets and only gave away 27 runs. Brad Haddin and Pat Cummins played through another 10 overs to bring Australia up to 151 before Haddin mishit one straight into the hands of the sub fielder. It was almost unbelievable to watch Australia’s power hitters crumble to good old fashioned swing bowling. It showed just how ready New Zealand were to claim the title of World Cup champions.
The game wasn’t over though and chasing 150 can almost be as tough as chasing 350. New Zealand had already had a little trouble chasing down a small total against Scotland. New Zealand’s innings began in a remarkably similar way to Australia’s. Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum looked like they were out to prove something as they smashed fours and sixes all over the place. McCullum caused some panic as he took a ball from Mitchell Johnson to the arm, just to add to the drama of the day. The pair were going at 10 an over until Guptill was removed in the fourth over. McCullum and Kane Williamson continued just as Warner and Watson had until McCullum was removed after making his 50. At 78-2, New Zealand would have still been happy. However, another collapse was written into the story as Ross Taylor and Grant Elliot followed McCullum in the next over. New Zealand were now at 79-4. Still they had nothing to fear with Kane Williamson at the crease and a target of only 152. Williamson and Corey Anderson came together to bring New Zealand right to the brink of victory. They built up again and at 131 it all looked all too easy, but the story wasn’t over. There was one final twist as Corey Anderson was removed. New Zealand somehow ended up going from 131-4 to 146-9 with eight runs needed and one wicket in hand. Boult the hero from the firt innings was the last man in to join Williamson who was there throughout to watch the whole Kiwi innings unravel. Boult came out to face a pumped up Mitchell Starc who had picked off six of the wickets with some phenomenal bowling. Bowler against bowler, Boult faced two balls from Starc and survived. He gave Williamson the opportunity to finish the game off and Williamson finished it in style. The winning runs came from a six off Pat Cummins. The Kiwi’s had won by one wicket.
It was an extraordinary performace and one that both teams will learn from. If the World Cup final is as competitive as this game was, it will be incredible.