Virat Kohli’s clever 95 trumped Daryl Mitchell’s quick 130 as hosts India beat New Zealand by four wickets in a top-of-the-table clash at the Cricket World Cup on Sunday.
Kohli failed to complete the fightback but was once again instrumental in helping India reach a victory target of 274 with two overs to spare, extending their unbeaten run in the tournament.
Their fifth win in a row left the two-time champions top of the table, followed by 2019 runners-up New Zealand, who suffered their first defeat of the year.
Mitchell hit a quick hundred but New Zealand struggled late and were on target for 273 in exactly 50 overs. Mitchell formed a 159-run partnership with Rachin Ravindra (75) before India’s bowlers applied the brakes. Mohammed Shami led the spirited bowling performance, taking five for 54 in his first game of the tournament.
Captain Rohit Sharma (46) led India’s bright start but it was Kohli’s fourth 50-plus score in five innings that helped the host country win. “It’s a good start to the tournament but our job is half done,” said Sharma. “At one point New Zealand formed a big partnership there…we have to give credit to the bowlers at the back.”
Through their choice of fielder, India dominated the powerplay segment and reduced New Zealand to 34 for two, but subsequently dropped three catches to let their opponents off the hook.
It was an eventful setback for Ravindra as he survived two lbw reviews and even had a backward decision against him overturned. A real relief came when Ravindra Jadeja dropped a sitter at the backward spot.
Mitchell was also lucky. KL Rahul dropped him behind the stumps when Jasprit Bumrah was on 59 and later took a regular catch in the deep.
After Shami dismissed Ravindra, the New Zealander, who was at 205 for three in the 37th over, collapsed, managing 54 runs in the last 10 overs and losing six wickets.
Sharma hit four sixes with his effortless knock as the hosts raced to 71 without loss in 10 overs. Lockie Ferguson broke the stand with a long throw which Sharma continued to his stumps. In his next over, Ferguson reduced Shubman Gill’s promising knock to 26.
India reached 100 for two in the 15th over when heavy fog caused poor visibility and forced the players off the field for a while.
After play resumed, Trent Boult hit Shreyas Iyer (33) and New Zealand fought their way back into the contest with the wickets of KL Rahul and Suryakumar Yadav.
Kohli and Jadeja, who failed to score 39, then put up a crucial stand and set up India’s victory. Sensing his second consecutive century, Kohli refused to score a single but holed out in the very next ball as India were on the verge of victory.
“In the last 10 overs we didn’t quite take advantage of the position we had but we commend India for the way they bowled,” New Zealand captain Tom Latham said. “We probably left a few out there.”