Empty stands at Old Trafford after rain stopped play on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

OLD TRAFFORD – The World Cup’s first semi-final between India and New Zealand risks being completed in front of an underwhelming crowd after Manchester rain pushed it into a reserve day.

The match was interrupted at 2pm, with New Zealand precariously placed at 211 for five from 46.1 overs, and never resumed.

For a while, it looked as if India might have to chase a potentially tricky 148 off the 20 overs that would have constituted a game - a scenario that would have brought New Zealand’s high-class seam attack into contention and risked robbing India of a place in Sunday’s Lord’s final against either England or Australia.

That would have necessitated a 6.35pm start, but the rain did not relent, leaving India with the more palatable prospect of chasing down a modest total in a full 50 overs today.

Tournament organisers must now hope that most of the spectators who turned up for the first day will return. Those unable to make it were urged to hand in tickets, which will be distributed free among the Greater Manchester cricket community.

Thousands of India fans have already re-routed at short notice from Birmingham following Australia’s surprise defeat by South Africa on Saturday - a result that left India first in the group, not second.

Yesterday, those at Old Trafford witnessed a tense three and a half hours in which New Zealand failed to justify Kane Williamson’s bold decision to bat first under slate-grey skies. There was some logic to his move: 16 of the last 20 group matches were won by the team setting a target, while New Zealand suffered heavy defeats by Australia and England batting second.

India's Virat Kohli leaves the pitch after rain stopped play on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff
India's Virat Kohli leaves the pitch after rain stopped play on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Yet India’s opening attack of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the outstanding Jasprit Bumrah offered few freebies on a sluggish surface. Martin Guptill’s horror tournament continued when he was well caught at second slip by Virat Kohli off Bumrah for a single, and New Zealand’s 10-over score was 27 for one - the lowest powerplay score in this World Cup.

Henry Nicholls was then bowled through the gate for 28 by left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, who hurried through 10 overs for just 34, before the ever-reliable Williamson and Ross Taylor slowly rebuilt.

But progress was so slow that by the time Williamson popped leg- spinner Yuzvendra Chahal to point for 67, New Zealand had used up more than 35 overs reaching 134.

All-rounder Jimmy Neesham perished cheaply trying to up the rate, heaving Hardik Pandya to deep midwicket, and it was 200 for five when Colin de Grandhomme steered Kumar to wicketkeeper MS Dhoni for 16.

Taylor remained unbeaten on 67, and will be crucial to New Zealand’s attempts to cash in on the final 23 balls of their innings this morning. But the unhittable Bumrah still has two overs, and India are favourites to reach their fourth final.

Daily Mail