India blast way to Cricket World Cup final after beating New Zealand

Centuries by Virat Kohli and Shreyas Iyer put hosts on way to 70-run victory

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India maintained their perfect record at their home Cricket World Cup as they sealed a place in Sunday’s final by beating New Zealand in Mumbai.

Virat Kohli scored a historic 50th one-day international century and Mohammed Shami took seven wickets, as the Indians claimed a 70-run victory.

It was their 10th win in a row in the competition. They will play the winners of Thursday’s second semi-final between Australia and South Africa in Ahmedabad on Sunday.

All the talk ahead of the toss had been of the home curator’s decision to swap the pitch a day before the game.

Instead of a fresh strip, the game was to be played on one that had been used twice in the tournament already.

It’s questionable what exactly it was previously used for: maybe as a road. Yet again, it was a batter’s paradise.

“Changes to planned pitch rotations are common towards the end of an event of this length, and has already happened a couple of times,” the ICC said.

Their statement, released just after the start of the game, said they expected the pitch to play well.

Certainly, it was to the liking of the batters. From the off, they feasted. Rohit Sharma started it all with 47 off 29 balls.

His opening partner, Shubman Gill, followed his captain’s lead. He retired hurt on 79 off 65 deliveries, before returning at the end of the innings to add just one more.

And all that was just the starter. Kohli anchored the innings and ended up making his first century in a knockout match for India in 24 attempts.

The sight of him battling through cramp to reach a historic century will live long in the memory. He blew kisses to his wife, Anushka Sharma. He bowed to his hero – and the man whose record he was taking – Sachin Tendulkar.

Even David Beckham was swept up in it all, despite admitting he was surprised at how much noise there was, given it was only a cricket match.

Of course, Kohli was the headline act, but Shreyas Iyer provided dashing support. His own century was even quicker than Kohli’s.

Iyer’s landmark arrived in a mere 67 balls, amid a flurry for sixes. It was his second century in successive games, and allowed India to close on a massive 397 for four from their 50 overs.

It felt plenty, and the hosts acted as such between innings. Kohli gave a valedictory flash interview, and was feted by both Tendulkar and Beckham.

He pointed out that there was still a job to do, and suggested it should be eminently doable if the bowlers went about it in professional fashion.

They managed it, but the New Zealand batters fought a doughty rearguard. Chiefly, Daryl Mitchell, who struck a second century in a doomed run chase against India, having done so in Dharamsala in the group phase.

He, too, battled cramp and once he had run out of fight, with his score on 134, the New Zealanders had finally run their race.

Updated: November 16, 2023, 5:55 AM