Henry buries demons to book New Zealand’s World Cup final spot

Sometimes the scene of your biggest disappointment really is the setting for your greatest triumph.

It is 18 days since Matt Henry was carted to all corners of Old Trafford by a combination of Chris Gayle and Carlos Brathwaite, as the West Indies came within inches of an improbable win.

As his team-mates celebrated their ultimately dramatic victory, he looked as though he wanted to be half a world away, back home in Christchurch and a million miles from a cricket field.

There were immediate calls for a new approach, with Henry’s figures to forget, 1/76 off nine, including a horror 25 off his last over. It prompted a chorus of critics to sing for change, citing his lack of penetration, variation and accuracy.

But how he answered them in scenes of undiluted drama in Manchester, with a brilliant combination of all the above inspiring New Zealand to beat India and secure their place in a second consecutive ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup final.

Henry secured the scalps of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Dinesh Karthik, the latter thanks to a catch beyond superlatives by Jimmy Neesham, as India were stunned and the Bharat Army silenced.

In this semi-final, played over two days after Tuesday’s rain delays, Henry proved whatever setbacks you face, whatever adversity you endure, that joy really does come in the morning.

With Virat Kohli’s team chasing 240, Black Caps captain Kane Williamson kept the faith and threw the ball to his opening bowlers, perhaps more in hope than expectation.

They’d not arrived in Manchester with confidence high, following three consecutive defeats to Pakistan, Australia and England, not ideal preparation for a last four date with a team who'd swaggered through the group stages with just one defeat.

But how they responded, Henry and Trent Boult combining to produce the most devastating spell of swing and seam bowling we’ve seen at this tournament.

By the end of the first ten overs, the game had decisively turned, all conventional wisdom about how this World Cup would play out needing an extensive rewrite.

A staggering 82 per cent of their deliveries - 49 of 60 balls - were dots, India mustered just three boundaries and lost four wickets, their top order skittled.

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India’s trademark tactic of cautious starts, followed by rapid acceleration, was ruthlessly exposed and it was the first time four wickets had fallen in the opening powerplay in the entire tournament.

After Henry had cleverly tempted the in-form Sharma, averaging 92.42 at this World Cup, into a drive he edged behind, India’s fans sat quietly, only to come alive when talisman Kohli came to the crease.

But his disappointing run in World Cup semi-finals continued, Boult trapping him lbw, his average in three innings of this match just 3.6, compared to a career 59.70.

Henry, who bowled seven straight over for just 23 runs, was bowling on a unerring length, his angling delivery catching Rahul between playing and leaving, an indecision that was to prove fatal.

Together with Boult, Henry peppered India’s shell-shocked top order with the full English, getting them hopping with a succession of pinpoint swinging yorkers.

And when Neesham threw himself at Karthik’s drive, producing a stunning one-handed catch at backward point, Henry reeled away in wide-eyed wonder. He finished with figures with 37/3, not a career best but certainly career defining.

Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong against the West Indies, but on the biggest stage it all went right and this road to redemption now leads straight to Lord’s.

© ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2019