Trent Boult’s boundary catch to stop Carlos Brathwaite’s match-winning six in the final over at Old Tafford will remain one of the highlights of any ICC Cricket World Cup match you wish to name.
It was a magical moment and a fitting end to a dramatic match between New Zealand and the West Indies as Braithwaite bashed 101 from 82 balls in reply to Kane Willamson’s sedate 148 which brought the skipper’s average at this tournament to 186.5.
Braithwaite had been magnificent in taking the Indies within five runs of the Black Caps 291 for eight total before sinking to his knees in despair after Boult’s superb catch from Jimmy Neesham’s bowling.
Towards the death he had smashed three sixes from one Matt Henry over and came within centimetres of stealing the match.
With openers Martin Guptill and Colin Munro both dismissed for ducks it was left to Ross Taylor (69) and Neesham (28) to offer Williamson support as the remaining batsmen crumbled.
More runs will be expected from Guptill, Munro and Tom Latham if the Black Caps are to prosper in the playoffs.
With Boult not prospering to the extent he usually does, it has been Lochie Ferguson who has lead the way for the bowlers, with good support from Neesham and the economical Colin de Grandhomme who has also contributed with the bat.
However much tougher challenges can be expected from Australia and England before the semi-finalists are decided.
Meanwhile the Crusaders’ superior forwards should set the foundation for a home win on Saturday night in their Super Rugby semi-final against the hot and cold Hurricanes.
Whereas the Crusaders advanced from their narrow 17-14 lead to overcome the Highlanders 38-14, the Hurricanes had problems in their 35-28 win against the Bulls.
The Crusaders scored five tries compared with the Highlanders two, two going to the victors while Liam Squire was sin-binned for a stupid no arms tackle.
With Richie Mo’unga notching a brace and setting up David Havilli’s try, his clash against Beauden Barrett should provide plenty of entertainment on Saturday night.
Meanwhile having beaten the Chiefs 21-16, the well balanced Jaguares will seek to make their first Super final by beating the Brumbies who thrashed the Sharks 38-13.
With the Jaguares loaded with Argentina internationals, they have a strong pack but will still need to be wary of the Brumbies’ low driving maul from lineouts.
Meanwhile it was great to see the Kiwis avenge their rugby league 2017 World Cup loss with a convincing 34-14 win over Tonga before a passionate red flag-waving crowd at Mount Smart on Saturday.
Especially pleasing was the brilliance of crackerjack hooker Brandon Smith who spends most of his time watching Kangaroo great Cameron Smith perform his heroics at the Melbourne Storm while he sits on the reserves bench.
With the Storm owning the two best league hookers in the world it’s a shame the dynamic Brandon’s game time is so limited.
Shaun Johnson relished playing in the halves with Benji Marshall whose experience and timely pass gave Johnson the confidence to slice through for two of his three tries.
It was also pleasing to hear giant prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona join the patriotic Marshall in saying just how much the Kiwi jersey meant to him after Marty Taupau’s late defection to Samoa.
- Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer