2015 World Cup; 2nd Semi-final: India vs Australia - Match Preview
The Indian team has been in Australia for four months now and been through a lot of ups and downs. After being humiliated in the tri-series, they picked up the pace in the World Cup blazing into the semi-final with 7 consecutive wins. The defending champions will now take on Australia in the second semi-final of the 2015 World Cup on 26th March. It will be a feast for spectators to watch this epic clash between the defending champions and the four-time champions on Sydney Cricket Ground.
The stadiums have been full of Indian supporters during India’s matches, while surprisingly, empty seats have been visible during Australia’s matches. According to rumours, the Indian fans have bought 70% of the tickets and it will seem like a home away from home for MS Dhoni’s men.
Pitch and conditions:
Venue: Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG)
Matches won batting First: 82
Matches won bowling First: 61
Average scores recorded: 1st Inns - 218, 2nd Inns - 184
The Australian grounds are famed for the bouncy pitches, the SCG being an exception. The pitch has been flat and favourable to spinners during this World Cup. Both the Indian spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja would be relieved to know that Imran Tahir and JP Duminy bagged 7 wickets in the last match played here against Sri Lanka.
Eventually, the captains may opt to bat first after winning the toss to put a decent target on the board. Out of the 7 ODIs played against Australia, India have won only once on this ground since 2000.
The sides last met at the SCG in the Carlton Mid tri-series which was washed out by rain. The Men in Blue had been in terrible form before that. The last World Cup meeting between India and Australia was in the 2011 World Cup. India beat Australia by 5 wickets in the quarter-final where Yuvraj Singh shone with both, the bat and the ball.
While batting first, India have scored 300+ runs thrice at the tournament while the bowlers have ensured that the batsmen are chasing a low target if India bowl first. They are the only side to bowl out each of their opponents at the World Cup. Mohammad Shami has been the pick of the bowlers with 17 wickets while Shikhar Dhawan has scored 367 runs at an average of 52.
Australia began the World Cup as the outright favourites and will pose a stern test to India. They made a statement with the annihilation of Pakistan in the quarter-final. Mitchell Starc has been their most dangerous bowler in the tournament swinging the ball at will. Whereas, the likes of David Warner, Glenn Maxwell and Steven Smith have fortified the batting line up.
The defeat versus New Zealand made them nervous, but they have come back very strongly with 4 back-to-back wins. They crumbled at some moments against Pakistan, but recovered well to get an easy win in the end. India is, however, a different kettle of fish than Pakistan and the Aussies will be well aware of that.
The only doubt for the Indians is Mohammed Shami, who skipped a training day to recuperate for the match. But, team India’s media manager RN Baba cleared the air and revealed that Shami will be fit for the semi-final.
MS Dhoni said he was pleased with the contribution of the batsmen as a whole. “The good thing is not many players from our side are in the top run-scorers list, but the batting has performed,” Dhoni said.
India XI (probable): Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (c&wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, M Shami.
Michael Clarke and James Faulkner seem to have shaken off any injury concerns and the hosts seem all fit ahead of the semis. Clarke may be tempted to use Xavier Doherty as his spin bowling can prove to be crucial on this turning pitch. If Doherty is picked, Josh Hazlewood is likely to miss out.
Australia XI (probable): David Warner, Aaron Finch, Steven Smith, Michael Clarke (c), Shane Watson, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Haddin (wk), James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood/Xavier Doherty
On the dry and flat track of the SCG, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli will be the key players for India. Mohammad Shami’s improved line and length will be a threat to Australia while Ashwin can prove to be India’s X-factor.
Michael Clarke has a habit of stepping up in crunch matches and Glenn Maxwell can bowl a couple of overs if Shane Watson goes for runs. Whether they bat first or second, James Faulkner will have the responsibility of an all-round performance.
Toss will be the crucial factor as batting first on this venue will put that team in an advantageous position. The two best teams will be up against each other and both have an equal chance to reach the final.
India will just edge it, though, and meet New Zealand in the final.