The 95-run loss to Australia in the semi-final halted India’s ICC Cricket World Cup, 2015 campaign. Chasing 329, the MS Dhoni-led side were bowled out for 233 at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday. (Also Read: "Only one team can win": MS Dhoni)
Despite Umesh Yadav's four-wicket haul and some miserly bowling by Mohammed Shami and the spinners, Steven Smith's century followed by James Faulkner and Mitchell Johnson’s (27 off 9) cameos ensured that they set India a formidable target.
Although Shikhar Dhawan's brisk 45 helped India to a decent start, the defending champions faltered after the opener’s departure and were reduced to 108 for four. India faced an uphill task from there on and couldn’t recover from the early loss. While Ajinkya Rahane and MS Dhoni added 70 until the former was dismissed, India couldn’t keep pace with the creeping run rate and also lost wickets at regular intervals and were bowled out by the Mitchell Starc-led attack.
Earlier, Mohammed Shami and Yadav spelt early trouble for the home side as they bowled a decisive length to keep Aaron Finch and David Warner on their toes and maintain the upper-hand in the nascent stages of the match.
The dangerous Warner succumbed early. He lobbed the ball to Virat Kohli at covers with just 15 runs on the board. Smith, who then replaced him in the middle, looked in sublime touch and batted like he has been through the season. He plucked runs off the Indian attack and eased the pressure off Australia. He smacked Yadav to the fence through either side of the wicket to collect 16 runs from it thus changing the momentum in favour of the hosts.
While Shami was difficult to score off, Yadav had conceded runs even as he created opportunities for India. Shami's first spell cost only 16 runs in five overs while Yadav, who had claimed Warner conceded 39 in five overs. Following the 16-run over, Mohit Sharma was brought into the attack and by bowling short of length and his trademark slower deliveries, conceded only one run.
Smith and Finch milked the bowling with the former leading the way. While India searched for a breakthrough, the left-arm spinner’s appeal for an lbw ended in India wasting decision review.
Scoring at a brisk pace Smith slammed Shami for a boundary and a six over mid-wicket before reaching his century with a boundary to fine-leg. Mohit too got slammed as the opposition picked 16 from his next over. With a steady inflow of runs the Australian batsmen built the tempo for a later onslaught.
Australia were comfortably placed on 197 for one in 34 overs when Dhoni re-introduced Yadav into the attack; and the pacer bounced Smith off the first ball of his new spell to end the flourishing partnership for 182. With the innings entering the batting powerplay, Glenn Maxwell was promoted up the order to up the ante. And in the pacer’s next over the batsman launched into Yadav, hitting him for six over mid-wicket besides a couple of boundaries to collect 15 off the over.
However, Dhoni’s bowling change in the next over again yielded a breakthrough. Looking to sweep, Ravichandran Ashwin, Maxwell perished lofting to deep backward square-leg. In the next, Yadav had Finch caught at mid-wicket.
With the three wickets India had edged their way back into the game. Yadav was replaced after the short burst. Dhoni rotated his bowlers and the short spells gave India the breakthroughs that kept the match hanging in balance. Re-introduced into the attack, Mohit struck. Clarke hit the ball straight towards mid-on and Rohit Sharma took the catch.
James Faulkner scored 21 off 11 until Yadav crashed his stumps with a fuller delivery. Shane Watson holed out to Rahane at deep square-leg. Mohit’s slower delivery had again done the trick. But Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson added 30 runs in 13 balls. Though the wicket-keeper batsman was dropped by Kohli with three balls to spare, the batsmen had crossed and Johnson took strike. He clobbered Mohit to pick 11 of three balls and take the side to 328 for seven.
Rohit and Dhawan then got off to a circumspect start. Let off on five by Haddin, the left-hand opener looked to capitalise on the reprieve and unleashed himself on Faulkner. He dispatched the all-rounder to the fence and lofted him over for mid-wicket for six to surge ahead. However, while on 45 he was caught by Maxwell at deep extra-cover while looking to clear the ropes.
Couple of overs later, Kohli was done in by a Johnson bouncer. India’s go-to man for chases departed top-edging the ball high in the sky and was caught by Haddin. In the pacer’s next over, Rohit got an inside edge onto the stumps after hitting him over cow corner for six. Runs were at a premium as Rahane and Suresh Raina strove to rebuild the innings. Their efforts were cut short 17 runs later as the left-hand batsman edged Faulkner behind the wicket and Haddin took the catch.
At 108 for four Dhoni joined Rahane in scaling the target. With the run rate creeping up, the India captain whipped Josh Hazlewood down the ground for four and then over the slips. Rahane too followed up with couple more as they carried the innings forward. But the stand ended for 70 with the middle-order bat nicking the Starc through to Haddin and was given out by the decision review. With India losing a key wicket in the batting powerplay, Jadeja took guard.
While they fought to stay in the game, Dhoni survived a tough chance on 42 as his opposite number failed to hold on to the catch. But in the next over Jadeja was run out for 16. With 121 required of 48 balls, the India captain launched into the attack. He slammed Watson over extra cover for six to get to fifty and followed up another over long-off as he looked to keep the side in the fray with Ashwin. But with India on 328, a direct hit from mid-wicket to non-striker’s end ended Dhoni’s stay for 65. In the next over Faulkner claimed Ashwin and Mohit off successive deliveries to bring Australia within a wicket of victory. Starc then castled Yadav in the next to bowl Australia to victory.
Aus 328/7 in 50 overs (S Smith 105, A Finch 81, U Yadav 4/72, M Sharma 2/75) beat Ind 233 all out in 46.5 overs (MS Dhoni 65, J Falukner 3/59, M Starc 2/28, M Johnson 2/50) by 95 runs
Man of the Match: Steven Smith for his match-winning knock of 105 off 93 balls.