By Sudipto Ganguly
MUMBAI, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Unbeaten India passed their first real test in the World Cup in the semi-final against New Zealand on Wednesday and the hosts will hope that the win over their bogey team will make them battle-hardened for the final.
India arrived at the Wankhede Stadium, where they lifted their second and last World Cup trophy in 2011, looking invincible, winning all nine round-robin matches without any stiff challenge, including a four-wicket win over New Zealand.
But then the Black Caps had also ended India's strong run at the same stage of the 2019 edition while Kane Williamson's team also beat them in the inaugural World Test Championship final two years ago.
India had also exited the 2015 edition of the 50-over World Cup at the semi-final stage with a defeat to Australia.
"Today being the semi-finals, I wouldn't say that there was no pressure," India captain Rohit Sharma told host broadcaster Star Sports, adding that the team wanted to treat the match as just another round-robin game.
"Whenever you play the game, there is always pressure, and obviously, semi-final adds a bit of extra there. But I think the guys were doing the job."
As Daryl Mitchell and Williamson grew in confidence during their third-wicket stand of 181 during New Zealand's chase of 398, the stadium went silent while millions of fans across the country probably wondered if the Black Caps would be the cause of another heartbreak for India.
"It was important to stay calm. At one point, the crowd went absolutely silent, that's the nature of the game," Sharma said.
"But we knew that we had to pull something up from our sleeves and need a magic, either a good catch or a run out or maybe a magic delivery."
Fast bowler Mohammed Shami provided that touch of magic with 7-57 - the best figures by an Indian in an one-day international and also his third five-wicket haul in the tournament taking him to the top wicket-takers list with 23.
India looked uncharacteristically sloppy on the field against New Zealand, with Shami dropping a fairly simple catch off Williamson, Ravindra Jadeja giving away overthrows and the hosts also muddling up run-out opportunities.
Sharma will be hoping that his team leave the mistakes behind as they head Ahmedabad for Sunday's final where they will meet either Australia or South Africa.
"We knew there would be pressure on us at some stage. We just had to stay collected. That's what we did. We were very calm even though we were sloppy in the field," Sharma said.
"But that can happen. We've got nine perfect games on the field. So these things are bound to happen. But I'm glad that we could get the job done in the end."
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly)
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