What to do at the toss
Rohit Sharma says it doesn’t matter, and India’s record this year backs him up: 12 wins and two defeats batting first, 12 wins and three defeats batting second. But the new balls have done plenty under the lights on this ground throughout the World Cup, so the template for New Zealand is offensively obvious: bat first, post a par score and then run through India’s top order in the first 10 overs. Just like they did in the 2019 semi-final.
The pitch switch complicates things a little, not least because there will now be a short boundary on one side. But it still feels like a bat-first day.
The first controversy of the day
Our old friend Lawrence Booth reports that today’s game has been switched to a used surface, which should aid India’s superior spinners, apparently to the dissatisfaction of the ICC pitch consultant Andy Atkinson.
If true – and I really can’t stress the word ‘if’ enough, because ultimately we don’t know – it’s dispiriting and unacceptable. It would also be a bit weird: India are so good that there really is no need for them to manipulate anything, except maybe the seam.
It’s worth stressing that last year’s T20 semi-finals were played on used pitches, so this might be something about nothing. It all depends on who made the decision to change pitches at the last minute, and why.
Hello and welcome to live, over-by-over coverage of the World Cup semi-final between India and New Zealand in Mumbai. In a sense this is the first game of India’s World Cup campaign. They were always going to breeze through the group stages – even if few expected them to do so in such awesome fashion – and it was always going to come down to this: two knockout games in which they will either affirm their superiority or extend their trophy drought.
India won nine out of nine in the league stage, pulverising almost every opponent and playing some of the most irresistible ODI cricket ever seen. It’s pretty simple: if they maintain that standard, they will won the World Cup.
Few people give New Zealand a prayer today, even though they are the team who ran India closest in the league stage. But this might be where things get interesting. For the first time in the tournament defeat is unthinkable for India, and that can do funny things to the old thought process.
There are echoes of the 2019 World Cup, when India were big favourites to beat New Zealand in the semi-final and lost a thriller by 18 runs. That’s one of eight defeats in their last 10 knockout games at ICC tournaments, many through cautious or nervous batting. The only two victories came against Bangladesh. South Africa were called chokers for less in the 1990s.
The 2013 Champions Trophy was India’s last major triumph. But 10 years of (relative) failure feel less significant than 10 months of spectacular form: India have won 24 of their 29 ODIs this year. They do have weaknesses – no sixth bowler, a long tail – but the specialists have done their jobs so magnificently that nobody has been able to expose them.
India look nigh-on unbeatable. But New Zealand, serial achievers who are about to play a record ninth World Cup semi-final, know from experience that there is no such thing.
The match starts at 8.30am GMT, 2pm in Mumbai.