Aussies ready for showdown with Kiwis in World Cup final
THE World Cup has the dream final, the co-hosts to square off at the Melbourne Cricket ground next Sunday.
Australia steamrollered defending champions India by 95 runs to advance and have a chance at avenging their one-wicket defeat on a madcap sunlit afternoon at Eden Park on February 28.
Having won the toss and reached 328 for seven, Australia's bowling and fielding was too good as India, despite a strong start, were unable to maintain the pace being dismissed for 233. Australia are now unbeaten in all seven semifinal appearances in World Cups, six wins and a tie.
It was India's first loss in the tournament and they, along with the other beaten semifinalist South Africa, were certainly deserving finalists. But this is Australasia's tournament, and it's a fitting final.
When India set out on the chase, they needed to almost match the highest successful run chase at the Sydney Cricket Ground last night, which is 334 for six by Australia against England in 2011.
Things began well. Rohit Sharma got the benefit of a tight, low catch by Shane Watson at second slip off Mitchell Starc in the first over, then wicketkeeper Brad Haddin spilled a catch off Shikhar Dhawan, diving wide to his left off Josh Hazlewood.
Dashing Dhawan then climbed into the bowling, as left armer James Faulkner was taken for 22 in the space of six deliveries.
However he drove a catch to deep cover on 45 and kingpin Virat Kohli, tied down for 12 balls, succumbed to the 13th, a Mitchell Johnson bouncer, skying a catch to Haddin.
When Rohit Sharma, having clouted Johnson into the crowd at mid wicket, got a faint inside edge to play on in the same over, and Suresh Raina touched a catch to Haddin shortly after, India were wobbling.
Captain MS Dhoni was their last hope after Ajinkya Rahane departed on a late decision by Australia to refer what turned out to be a faint edge. Dhoni's run out for 65 ended it for the Indians.
Australia might figure they had missed a trick in their innings, having been well on target to get to 350 or some way beyond, before India pulled themselves back into the contest.
It was a strange atmosphere for the Australians to be playing in.
In one of their biggest cities they found themselves playing in front of a sea of blue-shirted Indian fans and might as well have been in Kolkata.
The key to their innings was the 182-run second wicket stand between opener Aaron Finch and Steve Smith. Finch made 81 but Smith played a gem of an innings, en route to his fourth ODI century in the space of 17 innings.
He is a remarkable batsman, all fidgets, twitches and itches between balls, but he shows the benefits of running the first run hard and pressuring the field.
Smith took advantage of India's fast-medium bowlers' errors in line and length, pulling and driving sweetly - one back foot clip through mid on possibly the shot of the innings.
When Finch and Smith were sailing along things were fast getting out of hand for India.
However it then went a bit haywire for Australia. They lost wickets steadily but Johnson's rousing 27 not out off only nine balls sent Australia into the field with an extra spring.