Follow Through - Australia Brush Aside India To Reach Finals
The Men in Blue were bowled out for 233 (46.5 overs) after the co-hosts scored 328 for seven (50 overs) on the back of Steve Smith’s fourth ODI hundred.
This match was all about winning the toss, electing to bat first, putting up 300-plus on the board and then the opposition under pressure. On a placid pitch with very slow turn, Australia got to do it after winning the toss and they made it count.
Could India have done so too?
The thought is mere conjecture at this point in time, but traversing upwards from their batting order, the form of their players would suggest otherwise.
The tail hadn’t been called into service this entire tournament, and given their misadventures in December-January, it can be said that they wouldn’t have been of much use.
The lower order suffered with Ravindra Jadeja at number seven and Ravichandran Ashwin at number eight, the latter perhaps batting lower than he should have. But Jadeja’s hitting prowess won him that spot ahead of Ashwin, even though the promised runs never came.
Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni had been in decent form off-late, starting from the Zimbabwe game in Auckland, but for them to go into attack mode, the top-order needed to fire heavily. And that is where India failed to get going in their chase, as they would possibly have had they batted first.
Virat Kohli was very scratchy in his 13-ball stay, and no, his girlfriend’s presence isn’t the factor. It is because he hasn’t had one proper knock in the middle since he scored that hundred against Pakistan in Adelaide, a full six weeks ago.
Following that 107, he had scores of 46, 33 not out, 33, 44 not out, 38 and 3, before this one-run scored in Sydney. The patchiness of his tournament’s progression is there for everyone to see. You don’t come into a big game and chase down 300-plus easily without having momentum behind your blade.
It is a similar story for Ajinkya Rahane who played a magical knock against South Africa, but couldn’t replicated his success at number four afterwards. Before his grinding 44 runs against Australia, he had only scored 19, 19, 33 not out and 14.
When your number three and four are not firing, what hope does the team have?
It put the onus on two form players in this batting line-up then. Shikhar Dhawan has had a wonderful tournament, in terms of runs and confidence, while Rohit Sharma has been in good touch recently.
They both got early reprieves from Brad Haddin’s drop and Shane Watson’s botched attempt to catch at first slip. Then they put on 76 runs on the board. By the time it read 91, both were gone, along with Kohli. One of the opening batsmen needed to go big, either Rohit or Dhawan, both.
The left-hander paid the price of being too belligerent. He was going easily, smacking boundaries at will, a couple of them quite exhilarating to watch. That cut-shot straight down to deep cover was a bit unnecessary at that stage, as both the situation and required run-rate were under control.
But that is what comes with a player like Dhawan, that urge of wanting to explode instantaneously when the ball is slightest on offer. As such Rohit was definitely the one for the long stay, and he showed a glimpse of what he could have done, taking the fight to Mitchell Johnson. It was the bowler’s day though.
Two big wickets came for him after a listless summer against India earlier, yet he had done more damage with bat in hand. That chancy little cameo he played when Australia were struggling to get past the all-important 300-number changed the game.
In a big semi-final, chasing under pressure, that is still the psychological barrier teams look to cross in order to get an advantage. The Indian team batsmen would have been in a different frame of mind had they been chasing 280/290-odd. Just the other figure plays a significant role inside your brain out there in the middle.
Considering Australia were restricted to under-330 then, it was a major effort from the Indian bowlers to pull things back. At one point in time, with Aaron Finch grinding his way back to form and Smith in this pristine form smacking everything, 380 looked achievable.
There was even a talk about 400 in some hushed up quarters of the press box, but they were silenced by a middle-order collapse.
It is the single-biggest worry for Michael Clarke ahead of the grand finale against New Zealand on Sunday.
They have been in this position before, collapsing for 150-odd in Auckland in the league stage. A similar surrender on the biggest stage in world cricket is unthinkable.
With his own lack of runs to ponder over as well, he will need some quick solutions to give to the likes of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Daniel Vettori.
© Cricket World 2015