When Boult made hay in Old Trafford's gloom

"There's a lot less room for error in white-ball cricket." You can say that again, Trent Boult.

For much of the previous day, it had rained at Old Trafford. Now, the skies are grey and brooding. Boult has a shiny white ball in his hands. Matt Henry has the other. Although Boult thinks this World Cup ball swings more than others he's used, in truth, there's been barely any swing through this tournament.

But if it swings anywhere, if it seams anytime, this has got to be the moment. Now. These conditions. Today. New Zealand have this brief window of ashen grey promise to make this ball come alive - a half-hour tops, before the sun breaks through, or the wind starts to blow, and the moisture in the ground dries out. Defending a modest total, against a top three that has the best batsman of this tournament as well as arguably the greatest of all time, New Zealand have to move this ball. It is their one chance. They have to.

The first two deliveries are inauspicious. Boult, off that velvet fast-bowling action, is hitting high speeds, and getting a touch of curve in the air, but both batsmen have got bat to ball and scampered singles. Later in that over, maybe the shoulder has warmed up or the wrist has come right, and there is a little nip off the pitch to go with the movement in the air.

At his very best, Boult swings the ball so dramatically, it basically goes into a mocking orbit around the batsman before seeking out the edge of the bat and leaping gleefully into the hands of second slip. At his very best, his deliveries arc, as if collapsing back on to themselves. At Old Trafford, there is nothing quite so breathtaking. But there could be just enough.

As with Boult, Henry's first two deliveries are negotiated with little fuss, but then the third is a stunner, and it is with this ball that New Zealand begin to seize the wisp of the opportunity available to them. Henry pitches on just outside off stump, having got some away-movement in the air, which vitally, has come very late in the trajectory. Rohit Sharma, the World Cup's highest scorer, but maybe also its most nervous starter, is squared up, nicked off.

Next over, a Boult away-singer beats a Virat Kohli drive first up, and as hands go to heads and a stadium exhales, the thrill in every moment is almost unbearable. Old Trafford air that has only been filled with pro-India chants and dampness over the preceding day, has all of a sudden become electric.

Such has been India's campaign, Kohli is the only reliable maker-of-tough-runs remaining. Right now, he averages 68.53 against a team India had little trouble pounding 4-1 in a series in New Zealand, only months ago. He follows the outswing for two deliveries, Boult pulling his bat away from his body, as if with a magnet. Then he switches up the poles. He gets one to jag back in. He catches this great batsman out of position, hits him on his front pad. The umpire's finger goes up in a disbelieving stadium.

Kohli is seething now, that delivery only just shaving the top of the stumps according to ball tracking, but he will be seething even more in the dressing room at the beginning of the next over, when KL Rahul edges a Henry delivery he could well have left alone. India topped the league stage. New Zealand lost their last three matches. They have only scraped their way to the semi-finals, several of their players horrendously out of form. And yet, here is this unfancied team, prising apart India's mighty closed fist.

In a parallel universe, Henry and Boult get those opening overs slightly wrong, and they squander what little movement Old Trafford reluctantly gave up. Rohit breezes another big score, and Kohli whips balls through midwicket, celebratory roars in the bellies of the pro-India crowd, instead of boulder-sized knots.

Maybe we should all have seen it coming. This is what New Zealand have done so often through this campaign. What they so often seem to do at World Cups. In England, they have slid through closing doors, leapt over ravines while the ground crumbled beneath their feet, defused bombs with only seconds remaining till detonation, and pulled stars into alignment if they are not quite in their favour.

Williamson, against South Africa, hitting a sublime six over midwicket to seal the match in the final over, after they had lost four wickets with less than a third of the target on the board. James Neesham bowling a nerveless penultimate over against a rampaging Carlos Brathwaite, Boult almost leaning over the long-on boundary to snatch victory, when if he had missed they would have had defeat. Mitchell Santner guiding the team home a suddenly-tight chase at The Oval, after Bangladesh's bowlers and their raucous crowd had rejoiced in a middle-order crash.

On Wednesday, Ravindra Jadeja made a valiant charge, and the memory of MS Dhoni's greatest finishes loomed over the result, Boult shutting down the first of those challenges, before Martin Guptill found the one stump he had to aim at, with a wicked throw from way out in the boundary. In the late stages, India had hope, but as every match-forecasting tool had it, they were always chasing the game - the far less likely victor.

Less likely, because in the fourth over of this chase, India had been three wickets for five runs; Rohit, Kohli and Rahul out for 1, 1, and 1. Of all the possibilities this match held, New Zealand's sole advantage over India is that they could move the new ball. Boult and Henry sensed their moment. And they seized it.