Before the start of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 in South Africa, India had played two Tests and seven ODIs in New Zealand. In green and seaming conditions, India’s batsmen could not cope with the class of Shane Bond and Daryl Tuffey. However, even the New Zealand batsmen found the going tough against the likes of Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra. India lost the Tests 0-2 and the ODI series 2-5 in contests that were low-scoring. Heading into the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003, India and New Zealand had contrasting fortunes. India had won six consecutive games while New Zealand suffered a big loss to Australia in their previous game.
The clash between India and New Zealand was a virtual knock-out for the Kiwis and they had to win. At Super Sport Park in Centurion, India chose to field and immediately, Zaheer made an impact. The left-arm pacer had Craig McMillan caught by Harbhajan Singh and immediately trapped Nathan Astle LBW for a golden duck. Stephen Fleming and Scott Styris attempted a recovery but Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly rotated his bowlers well. Styris edged Nehra for 15 while Zaheer returned for his second spell and dismissed Brendon McCullum for 4 to grab his 100th wicket in ODIs.
When Fleming was caught for 30 off the bowling of Srinath, New Zealand was in trouble at 60/5. When Chris Harris was trapped LBW for 17 by Zaheer, New Zealand was staring down the barrel. The lower order could not cope with Harbhajan Singh’s guile and despite some hits from Jacob Oram, Tuffey and Bond, New Zealand were bowled out for 146.
India was expected to chase the target down with ease but Bond had other ideas. The right-arm pacer sent back Virender Sehwag 1 and bowled Ganguly with a brilliant yorker for 3. Tendulkar started off in grand style when he smashed three fours off Tuffey but in attempting a fourth, he was caught for 15. However, in Bond’s over, the game-changing moment took place. Dravid, on 1, edged a full ball to McCullum who dropped it.
This was the moment when New Zealand’s elimination was on the cards. Dravid and Mohammad Kaif proceeded to blunt the Kiwi bowling as they stitched a solid partnership. Kaif scored an attacking fifty while Dravid played the perfect second foil. Kaif (68*) and Dravid (53*) shared a 129-run stand and when Kaif scored the winning runs with rain approaching, India had reached the semi-final with their seventh consecutive win. For New Zealand, their tournament ended when Sri Lanka defeated Zimbabwe to enter the last four.