Virat Kohli’s record-breaking 50th ODI century saw him leapfrog the great Sachin Tendulkar and propel India into a fourth World Cup final following a 70-run win over New Zealand.
Tendulkar was in his home city of Mumbai to witness first-hand Kohli set a new benchmark in ODIs with a typically assured 117 off 113 balls that laid the foundations for India’s mammoth 397 for four.
After moving to three figures off 106 balls, Kohli leapt and punched the air, briefly sunk to his knees before rising and soaking up the acclaim from a frenzied crowd, including Tendulkar and David Beckham.
Tendulkar wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, he “couldn’t be happier that an Indian broke my record” as Kohli moved into a class of his own in his 291st ODI – 172 fewer than his former team-mate.
New Zealand battled hard in the chase but their hopes of a third successive World Cup final appearance were dashed despite an excellent 134 from 119 balls from Daryl Mitchell as they were all out for 327.
Fast bowler Mohammed Shami’s career-best seven for 57 took him to the top of the tournament’s wicket-taking charts after only six outings and was instrumental as the 1983 and 2011 champions gained a measure of revenge for being dumped out at the same stage of the 2019 tournament by the Black Caps.
After ending a run of semi-final defeats and claiming a 10th straight win in a tournament they are dominating, India can look forward to a showdown against either Australia or South Africa on Sunday.
There was controversy before the toss because of a late switch from a fresh to a used pitch but Kohli’s landmark innings, containing nine fours and two sixes, relegated the issue to a mere subplot.
Rohit Sharma lit the touchpaper for an India onslaught after they won the toss with 47 off 29 deliveries, while Shubman Gill contributed an unbeaten 80 off 66 balls despite struggling with cramp.
Kohli moved quickly through the gears alongside first Gill, who retired hurt on 79 before returning late on, then Shreyas Iyer, who thumped eight of India’s 19 sixes in his 105 off 70 deliveries.
This was Kohli’s day, though, and he got to his ton with a slap across the line, coming back for a second run before taking in the acclaim as Kiwi captain Kane Williamson offered his congratulations.
Kohli eventually holed out to deep backward square-leg off Tim Southee, who claimed three for 100, but India buttressed their total by adding 110 in the last 10 overs as New Zealand’s bowlers were flayed.
The 2015 and 2019 finalists slipped to 39 for two as Shami brushed the outside edges of Devon Conway then Rachin Ravindra but Williamson and Mitchell combined for 181 off 149 balls to frustrate India.
Mitchell was especially attacking – thumping seven sixes overall – and when Shami spilled a simple chance at mid-on when Williamson was on 52, the momentum was creeping slowly towards New Zealand.
Shami, though, atoned when Williamson miscued into the deep on 69 and Tom Latham was lbw two balls later to put India back in the driving seat, shortly after Mitchell had brought up an 85-ball hundred.
Mitchell kept plugging away but the required run-rate spiralled well into double figures before he gave Shami his five-for after whipping to Ravindra Jadeja on the boundary, and with him went New Zealand’s hopes.
Shami bagged Southee and Lockie Ferguson in the penultimate over to become the fifth bowler and first Indian to record a seven-wicket haul in a World Cup match as New Zealand were all out with seven balls unused.