India’s near flawless title defence came to an agonising end today as they succumbed to pressure against the clinical Australians, who decimated the defending champions by 95 runs to romp into the finals and break a million Indian hearts.
In an engrossing semifinal clash, four-time champions Australia rode on Steve Smith’s classy 105 to post an imposing 328/7 before bundling out India for 233 in 46.5 overs to set up a summit clash with trans-Tasmanian rivals and co-hosts New Zealand in Melbourne on Sunday.
After a dream run which saw them win seven matches on the trot, India’s quest for a second successive World Cup title was finally thwarted by the formidable Australians, who outplayed Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s bravehearts in every department at the fully-packed Sydney Cricket Ground.
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 today.
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 today’s 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.