|Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
|Australia v India
|SPD Smith, MG Johnson, GJ Maxwell, MS Dhoni, S Dhawan, AM Rahane
|ICC World Cup 2014/15
Australia defeated defending Champions, India by 95 runs for a showdown in the final against cohosts and neighbours, New Zealand. Chasing a target of 329 at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, India were bowled out for a below par 233. Centurion Steven Smith, was the main architect of the Australian innings and won the player of the match award for his 105 off 93 balls.
Indias World Cup record of eleven consecutive victories came to a halt with the defeat against the hosts whereas Australia improved their record of unbeaten semi-finals to seven.
Indias chase did start brightly with the opening duo, Dhawan and Rohit partnering for 76 runs in the first thirteen overs. In a bid to increase the run rate, southpaw Dhawan, tried an ambitious shot off Hazelwood but it went straight into Maxwell's safe hands at deep extra cover. Kohli, Rohit and Raina followed Dhawan to the pavilion in quick succession before the half way mark.
Rahane combined well for a while with skipper Dhoni trying a repair job which saw the team adding a paltry 26 during the batting powerplay. As the required run rate had reached double digits, Dhoni smashed Watson for two consecutive sixes in the 43rd over. The presence of the ever-cool Dhoni at the crease had kept the fans interested, even though the required run rate suggested imminent defeat.
Some precise bowling from the Aussie pacers kept India and Dhoni on a tight leash till an accurate throw by Maxwell from midwicket, ended any hope and Dhonis innings of 65 off 65 balls. Then Faulkner and Starc proceeded to finish-off the tail and bundle India out for 233 in 46.5 overs.
The Mitchells Starc and Johnson, caused the maximum damage to the Indian innings with both taking two wickets each. They were ably supported by Hazelwood who grabbed the opening wicket of Dhawan and Faulkner who zipped-up the tail to end with three wickets.
Earlier in the day, Australia won the toss and elected to bat. Warners wicket in the third over by Umesh Yadav was a jolt to Australian hopes of a good start. However, Smith combined with Finch to form a brilliant partnership of 182 runs for the second wicket. Smiths third oneday century which included 11 fours and 2 sixes was the highlight of the Australian innings.
Australian sent out the dangerous Maxwell, at the fall of Smiths wicket to increase the scoring rate and this paid huge dividends as Maxwell along with Finch smashed Indian bowlers for 64 runs in the batting powerplay. But the wickets of Maxwell, Finch and Clarke in quick succession dented Australia's hopes of crossing 350. Lusty blows form Watson, Faulkner and Johnson lifted the Aussies to 328 for 7 in the allotted 50 overs.
India must thank their pacers for restricting Australia to 328 who were once headed for a 350 plus score. Umesh Yadav shone with the ball for India, taking four wickets for 72 runs in nine overs. R Ashwin was their most economical bowler taking one wicket for 42 runs in ten overs.
In hindsight, the toss proved to be a factor as chasing a huge score under lights put too much pressure on the Indian batsmen. The lacklustre performance of India's middle order stars like Kohli and Raina may turn out to be the main talking point in Indias defeat.
It was Steven Smiths century along with accurate bowling by the Australian pacers which proved to be the main difference between the teams.
India will now head home from the World Cup and their tour 'down-under', without a single victory against Australia in the last four months which included four Tests and three ODIs. As for Australia, they will now fly to Melbourne to play New Zealand in the final on Sunday at the MCG.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2015 Arun S Kaimal)