Cricket fans takes out the effigy of Virat Kohli as they protest against India’s loss to Australia in the World Cup semi final clash, in Alipurduar, Mar. 26. (Press Trust of India)
India’s superb run in the World Cup came to an inglorious end when they surrendered meekly to Australia, losing by 95 runs in the semifinals here today with neither bowling nor batting clicking when it mattered the most. A PTI report by Kushan Sarkar.
The tame surrender of the defending champions before the crowd of 45,000, many of whom had travelled all the way from India, came as an anti-climax to the team’s outstanding performance which had seen them win seven consecutive matches in the tournament. Australia will now meet New Zealand in the final in Melbourne, Mar. 29.
The four-time champions rode on Steve Smith’s classy 105 to post an imposing 328/7 before bundling out India for 233 in 46.5 overs.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (65, 65 balls) stood tall amid a disappointing batting show as he waged a lone battle to take India past the 200-run mark and make a match of it despite the steep asking rate. At the top, Shikhar Dhawan was another notable performer with 45-run knock.
The Indians had themselves to blame for the loss as the bowling unit, which had performed admirably till now, failed to deliver when it mattered the most while the batting also crumbled under pressure.
The jubilant Aussies broke into wild celebrations after Mitchell Starc castled Umesh Yadav (0) to dismiss the last Indian batsman in the 47th over. Home captain Michael Clarke was composed though as he shook hands with the Indians and acknowledged the Aussie supporters, who had interestingly been outnumbered by Indian fans.
Set a record run chase, the first 300-plus score in a World Cup semifinal, the Indians started off with a flourish with Dhawan and Rohit Sharma (34, 48 balls) adding 76 runs for the first wicket in 12.5 overs.
But Dhawan’s dismissal proved crucial as the runs dried up in the face of a determined effort by a fired up Australian pace battery.
Mitchell Johnson (2/50), Mitchell Starc (2/28) and Josh Hazlewood (1/41) put the fancied Indian line-up under immense pressure as wickets kept tumbling at regular intervals.
Despite the heartbreak, India put up a commendable effort in defending the title after a horror tour of Australia prior to the mega-event after which not many experts of the game had given the team a chance.
In a tough chase, Dhoni scored 65, providing brief entertainment but the match as a contest was well and truly over by then. An inspirational run-out from Glenn Maxwell ended his innings as Indian fans slowly trooped out of the SCG.
Once the opening stand of 76 was broken by Hazlewood, removing in-form Dhawan, the home team seized the control not letting their foot off the pedal as ‘Men In Blue’ never looked like being in the contest. Starc, Johnson and James Faulkner (3/59) all played their part to perfection.
It was one such day, when everything fell apart for India. They conceded the highest total by any team against them in this edition of the mega-event as well as the first ever 300 plus score in a knock-out match.
This was also the only time that Indian bowlers failed to take all 10 wickets of the opposition team and the defeat snapped Dhoni and Co’s impressive winning run of 11 matches across two editions. And worst, they were all out for the first time also.
The second semi-final turned out to be complete contrast to the thriller that happened in Auckland, couple of days back.
Virat Kohli scored a single in the first 12 balls and the 13th one turned out to be a disaster as he failed to gauge the extra bounce off a Johnson delivery going for a pull which only ballooned in the air for Brad Haddin to complete a simple catch.
Rohit Sharma (34), who was getting into the groove, got one that was a few notches higher in speed than he thought it would be. Before he could bring his bat down properly, it cannoned into the stumps.
Suresh Raina (7) got one to rise off length as he fished it to Haddin behind stumps.
Dhoni and Ajinkya Rahane (44) added 70 runs delaying the inevitable before Smith’s smart thinking saw the end of Rahane. It was a delivery from Starc that pitched on length and moved a shade as the batsman apparently played and missed.
The bowler was going back to his run-up when Smith ran towards skipper Michael Clarke and insisted that he ask for DRS as he felt Rahane had nicked the ball. The snickometer showed that Smith was vindicated as it became 178 for five.
There was no hope after that and as one wicket fell after another as Aussie fans had the ‘Goodbye’ song from ‘Remember the Titans’ on their lips. The SCG that looked like a Sea of Blue turned into sunflower like yellow at the end of it all.
Earlier Smith sent the Indian pacers on a leather hunt with a classy century as Australia scored a commanding 328 for seven after opting to bat first.
Smith batted like a man possessed as the Indian attack looked pedestrian for the first time in front of the local boy whose 105 came off only 93 balls with 11 boundaries and two sixes.
Aaron Finch, who played the role of sheet anchor to perfection with a patient 81 off 111 balls that had seven fours and a six, added 182 off 31 overs for the second wicket with Smith.
Mitchell Johnson played a superb little cameo scoring 27 off 9 balls (4×4, 1×6) that helped the hosts cross the 320-run mark.
It was the first time that Indian pace attack was put to sword as the trio of Umesh Yadav (4/72 in 9 overs), Mohammed Shami (0/68 in 10 overs) and Mohit Sharma (2/75) were hammered into submission due to some poor planning as well execution.
However, it was R. Ashwin, who walked away with the honours with fantastic figures of 1/42, which included the prized scalp of dangerous looking Glenn Maxwell (23, 14 balls) with a well thought out trap.
It was because of Ashwin that India could stop Australia from racing away to a total in the range of 350 which looked possible when Maxwell started slaughtering the seamers.
The Australian innings was all about Smith’s approach and the manner in which he tackled the Indian bowling which has been a dominant force throughout the tournament.
So simple yet effective was Smith’s approach at the crease that it never seemed he was scoring at a rate of more than run-a-ball yet he did it with élan. The 100 came off 89 balls.
The floodgates opened in the 10th over of the Australian innings bowled by Yadav where Smith smashed him for four boundaries. Yadav’s first spell of five overs went for 39 with six boundaries and a six taken off his bowling.
It started with a cover drive and ended with a hat-trick of pull-shots as Yadav repeatedly erred in length, bowling too short.
With each and every shot, the common Australian sports anthem ‘Come on Aussie Come on’ sang by a motley bunch had more impact than the ‘Jeetega bhai Jeetega’ from the Indian fans.
The Australian innings started to gain momentum after that. While Finch worked out the singles and doubles with an occasional boundary, Smith pulled anything that was slightly short in length. The chip over mid-wicket off Ravindra Jadeja was sheer class.
Not for once did he look troubled by Indian bowlers as he reached from 86 to 100 with a two boundaries with a six in between.
The normally disciplined Indian pace attack bowled too short as seven out of 11 boundaries hit by Smith came off pull shots.
It was a short ball that finally ended a wonderful knock when Smith couldn’t control the hook shot off Yadav’s bowling to be holed out at deep square leg.
Once Smith departed, Maxwell teed off but it was Ashwin’s clever bowling and good captaincy by Dhoni that brought about the maverick Aussie’s downfall.
Ashwin flighted one and Maxwell wanted to muscle it over deep square leg boundary found the only fielder placed at that position.
Maxwell’s departure saw a mini collapse as Australia slumped from 233 for two to 248 for five before Shane Watson (28) and James Faulkner (21) added 36 runs at a quick clip in only 4.2 overs as Australia posted a more than decent total in a crunch match.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni defended an under-fire Virat Kohli for his indiscreet shot selection in the lost semi-final clash against Australia in the ICC Cricket World Cup, in Sydney, Mar. 26.
Chasing an imposing 329 for a win, India were bundled out for 233 in 46.5 overs with Dhoni top-scoring with a run-a-ball 65 as the batting was guilty of buckling under pressure, including Kohli (1).
Asked if Kohli’s shot selection was reflective of the pressure on him, Dhoni batted strongly for his deputy.
“Pehli baat yeh hai ki til ka taad nahin banate hain (Let’s not make a mountain out of a mole hill). Let’s accept the fact that he played a shot that didn’t pay off. It happens and it happens to a lot of batsmen,” Dhoni said in the post-match conference.
“Once the opposition puts over 300 runs on the board and once they have quality bowlers, at some point of time you have to take that risk. If it pays off, if it clicks, all of a sudden everything changes. He played a shot, it didn’t pay off and that’s it. I would say it happens in cricket,” he added.
The skipper did admit that there were a few niggles as far as bowlers were concerned but at the same time said that it wasn’t anything alarming.
“About fitness, a few of them (bowlers) had a few niggles, but the whole unit was 100 per cent fit. Fast bowlers had a bit of niggle, but nothing that really stops them from playing, so there were no fitness issues as such.”
Asked as to when did he think that the chase was becoming difficult and probably they weren’t going to win it, the wicketkeeper-batsman answered, “I think after the fall of third wicket, I somehow sensed that it would be difficult from here on.”
With the fast bowlers having done well throughout, Dhoni wasn’t harsh on them for their flop show on the day, stating that they could have done “slightly better.”
“When we lost the toss, I was a bit worried as I thought maybe the spinners wouldn’t get as much purchase. But I feel (Ravindra) Jadeja and (Ravichandran) Ashwin, both bowled well.
There was possibility of reverse swing going, so I felt our fast bowlers could have slightly better as there wouldn’t be much of a reverse swing. But once we came back into the game and restricted them to 328, I felt it was a good score.
“Yes, there was pressure, but at the same time it needed some good batting and good partnership, so it was a gettable score, but it needed some really hard work to get the runs on the board,” the skipper said.