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Heartbreak at Manchester

India’s World Cup dream came crashing down in Old Trafford, Manchester in a match that lasted two days. On a difficult pitch and overcast conditions the Indian batsmen were found wanting. India’s almost imperious performance in the group matches, except that blip against England, had masked its batting frailties. Those frailties were cruelly exposed on Wednesday when the Kiwi bowlers ripped through India’s top order with just five runs on the board.

You could say the law of averages caught up with Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. India were soon 24 for 4 with Dinesh Karthik falling to a brilliant catch by James Neesham though he was again guilty of playing away from the body. Pant and Pandya stitched together a useful partnership but both perished to loose shots. At 92 for 6 India looked dead and buried. But Indian fans can take a lot of heart from the way Ravindra Jadeja and the much-criticised MS Dhoni played and took India to 204 for 6. But just when victory seemed within grasp, the Kiwi bowlers held their nerve. Jadeja holed out when India needed 37 in the last three overs. In the first ball of the 49th over when Dhoni smashed Ferguson for a six over the point boundary Indian fans had their hopes up once again. After all hadn’t Dhoni done such ‘Houdini’ acts in the past, both for India and the Chennai Super Kings? But this time the task on hand was too much even for Dhoni who has endured a difficult tournament.

New Zealand thoroughly deserve their place in the finals. The irony is both India and New Zealand are remarkably similar — both have great bowling attacks and rely on just 2-3 batsmen.

As Kohli remarked it was “45 minutes of bad cricket” that did India in. It was India’s “missing middle order” that came to haunt it in the crucial knockout stage. There will be post-mortems galore and the brittle middle order in particular will come into great scrutiny. But for the disappointed Indian fans, Kohli’s men fought hard and that’s something to cherish.

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