Mohammed Shami went from hero to not-so-popular and then rose again from the ashes. All this in a matter of a couple of hours during the World Cup 2023 semi-final against New Zealand at the Wnakhede Stadium in Mumbai on Wednesday. It was as if Shami had decided to play with the emotions of the millions of Indian cricket fans. His performance brought them, then broke their hearts only to again bring them back to life.
After giving India a rollicking start with the new ball with the wickets of openers Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra, Shami dropped a fairly regulation catch of Kane Williamson in the 29th over. The New Zealand captain had just crossed the 50-run mark and was looking ominous. His partnership with Daryl Mitchell was threatening to take the game away from India.
In a desperate search for a wicket, captain Rohit Sharma turned to his pace-ace, Jasprit Bumrah. The talisman nearly delivered with a short-pitched slower delivery, inducing a false shot from a well-set Williamson. The ball went towards mid-on where Shami was standing at a comfortable height. But the India pacer couldn’t hold on to it. It slipped through his fingers. The collective disappointment at Wankhede was unmissable.
Bumrah had to cover his face with his hands, Rohit hung his head backwards, Kohli had disbelief written all over his face and the less said about the jam-packed crowd disappointments, the better it is. Did the World Cup slip through Shami’s hands? For the next three overs, it did seem like that as Williamson and Mitchell picked boundaries at will.
But Shami wasn’t ready to let the disappointments of a dropped catch peg him back. Brought into the attack in place of Bumrah in the 33rd over, Shami dismissed Williamson to break the 181-run stand for the third wicket. It was not one of Shami’s best deliveries. Williamson had made a good connection to that flick shot but unlike in previous occasions, he failed to hit the gap. The ball landed straight in the hands of Suryakumar Yadav, who made no mistake. Williamson was on 52 when he was dropped by Shami. When he was dismissed he added 17 more but at that stage of the game, India would happily accept that.
The Williamson wicket also made Shami the first Indian cricketer to reach 50 wickets in World Cups. He took just 17 innings to achieve the milestone. But he the right-arm pacer wasn’t done.
With a spring in his stride, he got one to go sharply with the angle from around the wicket to trap new-man Tom Latham right in front of the stumps. The umpire had no doubts in his mind. Latham had to take the long walk back for a two-ball duck. Shami went bang bang! And in a space of three deliveries breathed life back into the Wankhede crowd and also the Indian fielders. New Zealand were 220/4 in 32.4 overs.
Earlier, Virat Kohli scored a record-breaking 50th one-day international hundred and Shreyas Iyer made a blistering century of his own as India piled up a commanding 397-4. Kohli’s innings of 117 saw him surpass the mark of 49 hundreds he had shared with Sachin Tendulkar as his compatriot looked on from the stands. Kohli put on 163 with Iyer, who made 105 off just 70 balls, including four fours and eight sixes.