Cameron Green and Josh Hazlewood created history on Friday as they combined for Australia's highest 10th-wicket partnership in Test cricket against New Zealand.
As the ongoing ICC World Cup 2023 enters its business end, all eyes are on the final three games, beginning with the first semifinal between India and New Zealand at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Wednesday.
For the uninitiated, India haven’t reached any of the last five finals in ICC white-ball World Cups, while New Zealand have never won one, despite reaching three finals in seven years.
Hosts India have displayed a dominant performance, brushing aside opposition units, be it the fancied ones or the emerging outfits to notch up nine straight and convincing wins, and make themselves the formidable contenders for lifting the title for a third time, after 1983 and 2011.
However, Rohit Sharma’s side will have to deal with a tricky New Zealand in the first semifinal that throws up a repeat of the 2019 encounter at Old Trafford in Manchester, in which the Kiwis denied India a spot in the final. The memories of Mahendra Singh Dhoni being run out by Ross Taylor, ending India’s dreams four years ago, still haunt fans in India.
Now, playing in their own backyard, India will look to avenge the loss on Wednesday. However, irrespective of their red-hot form, including the four-wicket victory in the league stage contest against the Black Caps in Dharamsala, Rohit Sharma and Co will be aware of the pitfalls of the knockout stage.
For New Zealand, who qualified from a mid-table clutter involving Pakistan and Afghanistan, the 2023 edition provides them yet another opportunity after two consecutive final appearances in 2015 and 2019, to lift their first ever 50-over World Cup trophy, and the heartbreaking memories of the 2019 final will be surely playing on the back of their minds when they take the field on Wednesday.
In their ranks, New Zealand can boast of a new-generation star in prolific batter Rachin Ravindra, certainly the find of the tournament if cricket pundits are believed. Ravindra has hit 565 runs in nine matches and is the team’s highest-scorer this edition. He has a strike rate of 108.45 and averages 70.63. He also has two half-centuries and three tons to his name in this campaign. Besides Ravindra, New Zealand will also pin their hopes on Mitchell Santner, who has picked 16 wickets so far at an average of 24.87.
Besides the duo, the Kiwis also boast of experienced campaigners, with skipper Williamson leading from the front, along with James Neesham, Tim Southee and Trent Boult, eager to make an impact in what could be their final World Cup appearance.
On the other hand, India will be hoping their skipper Rohit Sharma continues the fun run at the top of the order in the company of Shubman Gill, and allow the likes of Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul and Suryakumar Yadav to pile up the runs. In the bowling, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah will be expected to call the shots even as the Mumbai track promises decent turn and spin for the slower men.
In the only ODI World Cup semi-final played at Wankhede, India lost to England by 35 runs in 1987, and come Wednesday, the Men-in-Blue have a golden opportunity to script their own destiny.
History beckons for an India side who are looking for a first major tournament win in 12 years, and where better for this semi-final to be held than at the venue where India won their last World Cup back in 2011.