Match Analysis

Kiwi romance ends in Delhi heartbreak

After a bewitching tactical approach carried them unblemished through the group stage, New Zealand's flirtation with a maiden World T20 trophy came to a harsh end

Like any good relationship, this one had been founded on mutual respect. When New Zealand came upon their first pitch of the tournament, there had of course been those familiar stirrings of early romance - the long searching gazes, the way it felt to touch, maybe a few butterflies in the stomach.
But it was respect that set the fire alight. New Zealand saw the clay's tawny complexion and were moved enough to wish to change themselves. The spearhead quicks were ditched. A small bouquet of spinners - an offie, a left-armer and a legbreak bowler - was brought forth.
To this the pitch could not help but respond. It turned for them. The ball dived and jived and danced. Paris is the city of sweethearts, they say, but here was love forged in Nagpur. And it was no mild infatuation. A win was by 47 runs.
On to three other destinations, and the connection between New Zealand and the Indian clay grew deeper. The Dharamsala pitch fell for Mitchell McClenaghan's hit-the-deck pace. The slightly faster Mohali surface gave in to Martin Guptill's strokeplay and Adam Milne's energy. When the slow bowlers bloomed in Kolkata again, a sense of destiny became attached to this relationship.
A far-off team going all the way on Indian pitches? A sixth winner in six tournaments? Many watching on pondered how lovely it could be. This match was so exotic, who could help but wish them well?
But in Delhi, two steps away from the title, how quickly it all unravelled. Kane Williamson made the first mistake. A sense of destiny still running strong at 91 for 1, he swiped across the line to send the ball high into the air. But this was just a minor tiff, you thought. This could easily be survived. There was Corey Anderson to come, Ross Taylor and Grant Elliott.
Later in the evening, New Zealand would go on to disrespect the pitch, but first they disrespected themselves, which was worse. Well-enough poised for a death-overs push, Luke Ronchi sent a Ben Stokes full toss high into the night, and was caught at long-off. Another full toss next ball, and Corey Anderson repeats the mistake. New Zealand were slurring words and making faux pas in public. The pitch itself was uninvolved at this stage, but looking on from close quarters, maybe cringing a little.
The fall of those wickets helped ensure that only 20 runs were scored from the final four overs, in which three other dismissals also occurred. The surface could hardly be blamed for Mitchell Santner's downfall either. Having received a length ball outside off stump from Stokes, he hit it into the hands of long-off, rather than striking it into the gap a little further towards cover.
And then, it was in the first few overs with the ball, that the wishes of the pitch itself were really ignored by New Zealand. Previous matches at the Feroz Shah Kotla had suggested this clay was more receptive to slow bowling than the quicks. Yet, even after an errant Anderson had been clattered for 16 in the first over, New Zealand kept forcing quicks upon it. Adam Milne's first two overs went for 20. Mitchell McClenaghan's first for 13.
With England at 49 for 0 after four overs, the romance was nearly dead. Even Santner, who had been the tournament's top-equal wicket-taker, found the stem of his flower wilting and the petals dropping off. He was smoked down the ground when he darted one at Jason Roy's stumps, then swept to the fine leg boundary when he strayed to the legside. In later spells, he would join several other New Zealand bowlers in delivering the kinds of long hops that would disappear to the boundary on almost every pitch in the world.
To New Zealand's credit, they did not completely surrender. One last-ditch declaration of affection was made. When Ish Sodhi claimed wickets off successive deliveries in the 13th over, he was in a taxi en route to the airport departure gate, rehearsing a "Please, come back to me" speech.
But too much had already happened. There had been too many bad shots, too many bad balls, too much bad blood. In the end, disappointment came upon them quickly. With seventeen balls still left in the game, the seven-wicket loss was a harsh farewell.
New Zealand will go home with broken hearts, but when they look back on this day, they might feel the mistakes were so avoidable. The truth is, no surface in the world would have suffered their glaring flaws on Wednesday night.
Still, it is a relatively young team, with a 25-year-old head. They will be back soon enough, a little wiser, full of pep, and making moves on other tracks. With time, they might even look back on this campaign with a sense of wistful fondness. And at least - let it not be forgotten - they will always have Nagpur.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando