Sydney, March 26: Four months ago, India arrived in Australia as holders of both the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and the World Cup. Then they ran into Steven Smith, who ensured they will fly home with neither. Smith tormented India with a century in every Test of the summer, and like the ghost of series past, returned to haunt them with another hundred in this World Cup semi-fil. The summer of Steve just keeps rolling on.
It will end at the MCG on Sunday in either World Cup triumph over New Zealand, or heartbreak at losing the trophy to the co-hosts of this six-week event. Of course Smith was not alone in delivering Australia their seventh win from seven World Cup semi-fils - Aaron Finch gave batting support, Mitchell Johnson provided invaluable late runs and key wickets - but Smith was at the heart of it.
Australia comprehensively overwhelmed India to oust the defending champions and enter the cricket World Cup fil with a 95-run win in their semifil encounter at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) here on Thursday.
With the triumph, Australia ensured a summit clash against co-hosts New Zealand and will be vying for their fifth title at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Sunday.
A 182-run stand between Steven Smith (105) and Aaron Finch (81) proved to be the difference between the two sides. Opting to bat, the hosts put up a commanding total of 328/7 in 50 overs before bowling out India for 233 in 46.5 overs.
The daunting target notwithstanding, India started well with openers Rohit Sharma (34) and Shikhar Dhawan (45), with the latter playing the aggressor’s role. The left-hander was dropped by wicketkeeper Brad Haddin while batting at five but recovered to notch six boundaries and a six in his 41-ball innings.
Just when India were looking like they may give the hosts a challenge, from 76/0 in the 13th over, the defending champions lost four quick wickets to be tottering at 108/4. Virat Kohli (1) and Suresh Rai (7) failed to provide the impetus and the loss of their wickets completely put India on the backfoot.
Ajinkya Rahane (44) and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (65) then tried to steady the floundering ship with a 70-run fifth-wicket partnership but the asking rate kept mounting.
After Rahane got out, the pressure got on to Dhoni who struck a couple of lusty blows to bring in a lot of cheer from the crowd. But the Indian skipper had to go for it with the required run rate almost 10 per over.
In order to accelerate the faltering run rate, Dhoni was run out by a direct throw from Glen Maxwell — and all Indian hopes of a comeback lay shattered.
In the end, such was the domince of the Australian pacers that they scalped the last four wickets for just two runs as the tail failed to offer any form of resistance.
The Australian pace attack lived up to its hype with the tourment’s highest wicket-taker Mitchell Starc starring with 2/28 in 8.5 overs. Mitchell Johnson (2/50) also took a brace while James Faulkner cleaned up the tail with 3/59.
Earlier, with Australia opting to bat, Smith and Finch’s second-wicket partnership powered the four-time champions to the first 300-plus total in a Cup semifil with Smith scoring his fourth One-Day Intertiol (ODI) century.
Looking at the way the hosts were going, India did well to drag Australia back from the time they looked like getting anything above 350.
India started well with pacer Umesh Yadav (4/72) taking big-hitter David Warner’s wicket in only the fourth over. But thereon, Smith and Finch more or less put the match in Australia’s favour.
Opener Finch was slow but maged to stick it out in the middle to score seven boundaries and one six in his 116-ball knock. He provided good support to Smith, who smashed his way to 11 fours and two sixes in his 93-ball innings.
India pulled things back as Yadav, Mohit Sharma (2/75) and spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (1/42) took four quick wickets. Despite this, the four-time champions maintained the flow, scoring almost a run-a-ball.
A couple of brilliant cameos at the end from James Faulkner (21) and Mitchell Johnson (27 not out) helped Australia hammer 89 runs off the last 10 overs, despite losing two more wickets.
All Indian bowlers, who had proved to be the team’s main reason for success in the tourment, were expensive against the explosive Australian batsmen. Though Yadav picked up his second consecutive four-wicket haul, he went for eight per over.
In the Cup fil, the two co-hosts will take on each other with Australia, in their seventh fil, and New Zealand, in their maiden. The Black Caps had beaten their Trans-Tasman rivals by a wicket in the group stage. IANS
Aaron Finch c Dhawan b Yadav 81, David Warner c Kohli b Yadav 12, Steven Smith c Rohit Sharma b Yadav 105, Glenn Maxwell c Rahane b Ashwin 23, SR Watson c Rahane b Mohit Sharma 28, Michael Clarke c Rohit Sharma b Mohit Sharma 10, James Faulkner b Yadav 21, Brad Haddin not out 7, Mitchell Johnson not out 27
Extras (b 1, lb 7, w 6) 14
Total (7 wickets; 50 overs) 328
Fall of wickets: 1-15, 2-197 , 3-232, 4-233, 5-248 , 6-284, 7-298
Mohammed Shami 10-0-68-0, Umesh Yadav 9-0-72-4, Mohit Sharma 10-0-75-2, Virat Kohli 1-0-7-0, Ravindra Jadeja 10-0-56-0
Ravichandran Ashwin 10-0-42-1
Rohit Sharma b Johnson 34, Shikhar Dhawan c Maxwell b Hazlewood 45, Virat Kohli c Haddin b Johnson 1, Ajinkya Rahane c Haddin b Starc 44, Suresh Rai c Haddin b Faulkner 7, Mahendra Singh Dhoni run out (Maxwell) 65, Ravindra Jadeja run out (Smith) 16, Ravichandran Ashwin b Faulkner 5, Mohammed Shami not out 1, Mohit Sharma b Faulkner 0, Umesh Yadav b Starc 0
Extras (lb 8, w 5, nb 2) 15
Total (10 wickets; 46.5 overs) 233
Fall of wickets: 1-76, 2-78 , 3-91, 4-108, 5-178, 6-208 , 7-231, 8-232, 9-232, 10-233
Bowling: Mitchell Starc 8.5-0-28-2, Josh Hazlewood 10-1-41-1, Mitchell Johnson 10-0-50-2, James Faulkner 9-1-59-3, Glenn Maxwell 5-0-18-0, Shane Watson 4-0-29-0.