It's the third ball of the 49th over, India need 25 off 10 balls. MS Dhoni is on strike. He's just smashed the first ball of the over, from Lockie Ferguson, for a six over deep point. It is followed by a dot. Ferguson steams in for the third and bowls a short one. It climbs on to Dhoni. He looks to pull but is late so follows up with a half-hearted shot, awkwardly taking one hand off. He gets a top edge which rolls over behind square leg.
He knows he has to keep the strike, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar at the other end. It's been sort of a theme when he is playing with the tail at the death where he takes it all upon himself to finish games off. He's succeeded as well.
He sets off and hares down the wicket for a single.
Over the years, Dhoni's reflexes might have slowed while batting but he is still one of the best runners between the wickets. He is better than most of the present youngsters. He and Ravindra Jadeja were scampering down the wicket for quick singles and two moments ago.
There is no doubt he is turning back for the second. Guptill, from the deep square leg boundary charges in; the 'keeper chases the ball. "Who's going to cover the keeper's stumps," an animated Ian Smith asks on air.
Dhoni, on the 22 yards, scampers back for a second. Colin de Grandhomme rushes towards the stumps at the striker's end. Guptill, as he nears the ball, slows down a bit, composes himself, and picks it up one-handed.
With Dhoni's running, the margin is much less.
The last time he was run out in any format in international cricket was three years ago, in 2016 at Dharamsala.
Guptill knows its direct hit or nothing. He sees de Grandhomme charging towards the stumps but handing it to him is of no use. He has one stump to aim at. He goes for it and unleashes a powerful throw. De Grandhomme, with great awareness, leaves, it. Perhaps the best leave of his cricketing career so far or might go on to be the best ever. The throw is bang on target and the furniture is shattered.
"Ooo Direct hit, is this the World Cup? It's Martin Guptill, is this the final? Unbelievable...Unbelievable," Smith screams on commentary. Richard Kettlebrough, who has his eyes transfixed on the ball and the best view at square leg, signals for the review in awe and astonishment. He knows at the back of his mind that Dhoni is gone.
"Unbelievable is the right word," Ganguly concurs with his Kiwi co-commentator.
"Oh direct hit! Is this the World Cup? It's Martin Guptill! Is this the final!?"
— ICC (@ICC) July 10, 2019
Guptill, fraught with a million emotions, lets out a smile and high five's to Tom Latham, de Grandhomme and Ferguson. Ever exhale is a gust of pure tension at the Old Trafford as the replay plays out on the big screen. Dhoni is agonisingly short. The resignation amidst disbelief starts to sink in as OUT flashes on the screen. Guptill pumps his fist. Incidentally, it was the Guptill/Luke Ronchi (wk) combo that had run Dhoni out at Dharamsala. It was deja vu in Manchester. “One of the fastest in the world in between the wickets, leaves the big stage with a run out,” Ganguly shrieks. The agony has turned into ecstasy for Guptill. 24 hours ago, he had scrapped around for a 14-ball one, trudged up the stairs of the dressing room, stomped his bat in anger and sat alone in the viewing area of the Old Trafford despondent and depressed staring through the glass window into oblivion. And here he was, providing one of the most decisive moments of the match a day later, to propel the Kiwis into their second straight World Cup final.
Dhoni has done it for years. Taking the game deep and then finishing it off. With 25 needed off 10, India were still in the game.
In big match, at crucial junctures, one moment of brilliance can be a game changer. Guptill provided that. The mind went back to Kapil Dev's catch of Viv Richards at Lord's, Chris Harris' run out of David Boon at Auckland in 1992, Romesh Kaluwitharana's stumping of Sachin Tendulkar at Eden Gardens, Jonty Rhodes' flying 'Superman' run out of Inzamam-ul-Haq. Those impact moments that scripted a turnaround. Williamson stressed on the significance of Guptill's brilliance in the post-match conference.
"We all know the game is a fine line in a number of ways. But that run-out was significant," the Kiwi captain said. "We've seen Dhoni finish games from those similar positions on a number of occasions. It was a tough surface so nothing promised but naturally to dismiss Dhoni in whatever fashion is extremely important, but for a direct hit run-out very, very similar to Jadeja's, I think was a big moment in the game."
That run out from Guptill was a thing of beauty. The calmness, poise, technique, and precision under pressure were immaculate. You could watch it infinitely on the loop with Titanic trance in the background.
"Yeah, that was, you know — I mean he's probably the only man on the pitch that could perhaps create that run-out," Williamson said. "So contributions can come in so many different ways and I think we've seen on the fielding charts he's been right up there and for him to do that and pull off what was a significant turning point in the match was special and then obviously a great thing for our team.
On Tuesday, on a brown hard Old Trafford pitch, Guptill had scrapped around for 13 balls at the crease before being caught at second slip off Jasprit Bumrah for one, his eighth failure in a row.
After an impressive innings of 73 not out on a green top against Sri Lanka, he couldn't buy a run. His technique against the inswinger was exposed. 25, 0, 35, 0, 5, 20 and 8 followed.
He was a shadow of the batsman he was four years ago when he ended up as highest-run getter of the tournament and scored more runs in one innings (237 vs WI, highest individual score in WC history) than eight innings combined in this edition.
He was under pressure, the Kiwi batting was faltering at the fag end of the tournament and his team had barely scraped into the semis on Net Run Rate. So going into the semi-final, he had to put his hand up. The team management kept faith in him. It was time for vindication. But he faltered, again.
He, however, left the disappointment in that viewing area and came back on the field as a livewire. He was diving, making crucial stops, saving important runs.
Ten days ago, Guptill had pulled off a stunner at leg gully to send back Steve Smith at Lord's. It was a blinder given the ball (a bounder from Ferguson) was travelling at 142 kph on the 22 yards and even faster after Smith had pulled it with reaction time of barely seconds. He wasn’t creating impact with the bat but was compensative somewhat little in the field.
— ICC (@ICC) June 29, 2019
19 years ago, in a freak accident, Guptill, all of 13, had his three outer toes amputated when his elder brother had mistakenly rammed a forklift truck into him. The biggest concern was whether he would be able to recover mentally, forget his cricketing future.
Well, two months later, he was back on the field.
“He surprised all of us with his courage. In the initial days, he was under a great deal of pain, but gradually he came back to his normal self," Guptill's father Peter told the Indian Express. "We were surprised when he said he wanted to play cricket again. But he did and as they say, never turned back.”
It is this fighting spirit that has taken him so far in his life and career.
In spite of all that he went through at a very young age, even at 32, Guptill is one of the best fielders in the world. He often covers a lot of ground by himself because of his excellent acceleration. A statistic earlier in the semi-final match showed that Guptill had saved 34 runs in this tournament, second-most after Ravindra Jadeja.
That Dhoni run-out might have injected a whole lot of confidence in Guptill after a tough few days. And the Kiwis will be hoping that this confidence coupled with his mental strength helps him conjure another moment of brilliance at Lord's, this time with the willow in his hand.
Until that happens, I am back to watching that rhythmic brilliance, again, on loop.