Favourites fray for spot in final frontier

March 26, 2015

The thrilling first semi-final in Auckland has left all sunken for hours after it ended but India and Australia will be aware that they cannot afford a similar cliffhanger in Sydney today. The top two teams of ICC one-day international ranking will battle it out in the second semi-final at the Sydney Cricket Ground, hoping to join New Zealand in Melbourne for the ultimate prize on March 29.
Very similar to the first semi-final, there is hardly anything to choose from the co-hosts and the defending champions, making it difficult for the bookmakers to find a clear favourite.
History will back Australia, who did not lose any of their six World Cup semi-finals and the fact that the match will be held at SCG which will also give them some psychological edge.
It is the ground that is believed to suit India’s game most but the holders, who are on an 11-match winning spree in World Cup dating back from 2011, will take no confidence from it.
India could beat Australia only once in the last 35 years at the SCG, a fact that can scare any side. Going into the big match, India’s greatest hope will be their current form that made them the team to beat.
The only side to take 70 wickets in previous seven matches, the holders will also hope the pitch will not just turn into a batting paradise as it has been suggested by some corners.
Sydney has a reputation of favouring spinners and India have quite a few of them who can flummox even the best batsmen in the world.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja proved to be handy against South Africa in group stage at Melbourne when it turned and Indians hoped if necessary Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma can also bowl few overs to slow things down.
India’s experience of handling the big game pressure and their passionate fans who are expected to outnumber their Australian counterparts in 42,000-capacity gallery can also give them an advantage.
Based on his big match experience, batsman Rohit Sharma, who bailed out India from under pressure with a century against Bangladesh in the quarter-final, promised an exciting contest.
‘Because we all played big games… it brings the best out of everyone during those big matches,’ Rohit said. ‘So, yes, we look forward to this and hopefully it will be an exciting contest.
Australia captain Michael Clarke, himself a former World Cup winner, was not ready to put his team any behind in terms of experience and playing big matches. Clarke took pride in how his team progressed in the tournament that helped expectation escalates.
‘I think you’ve seen the way the guys handled it throughout the tournament,’ said Clarke. ‘The way the boys played against Pakistan in the finals was extremely pleasing.
‘Expectations are there because we’re the No 1 one-day ranked team in the world. The reason you have that expectation on you is because you’ve performed.’
Clarke has no fear over facing India at SCG’s spinning track despite his team mostly relying on pacers to unsettle the opponents throughout the tournament. Apart from their game against Sri Lanka at the same venue, they did not field any specialized spinner and relied mostly on Glen Maxwell for the job.
‘I think the SCG in general is a really good wicket,’ he said. ‘It’s normally even for both batting and bowling. ‘So I think the fast bowlers will hopefully get a little swing and a little bounce out of that wicket.
‘Then as always I think spin will play a part. But it’s generally as good a place to bat as anywhere in the world. So I’m confident this game will be no different,’ said Clarke.

-Input from New Age

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