India’s near flawless title defence came to an agonising end on Thursday 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.
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.
In a tough chase, Dhoni scored 65, providing brief entertainment but the match as a contest was well and truly over by then. An inspirational run-out from Glenn Maxwell ended his innings as Indian fans slowly trooped out of the SCG.
Once the opening stand of 76 was broken by Hazlewood, removing in-form Dhawan, the home team seized the control not letting their foot off the pedal as ‘Men In Blue’ never looked like being in the contest. Starc, Johnson and James Faulkner (3/59) all played their part to perfection.
It was one such day, when everything fell apart for India. They conceded the highest total by any team against them in this edition of the mega-event as well as the first ever 300 plus score in a knock-out match.
This was also the only time that Indian bowlers failed to take all 10 wickets of the opposition team and the defeat snapped Dhoni and Co’s impressive winning run of 11 matches across two editions. And worst, they were all out for the first time also.
The second semi-final turned out to be complete contrast to the thriller that happened in Auckland, couple of days back.
Virat Kohli scored a single in the first 12 balls and the 13th one turned out to be a disaster as he failed to gauge the extra bounce off a Johnson delivery going for a pull which only ballooned in the air for Brad Haddin to complete a simple catch.
Rohit Sharma (34), who was getting into the groove, got one that was a few notches higher in speed than he thought it would be. Before he could bring his bat down properly, it cannoned into the stumps.
Suresh Raina (7) got one to rise off length as he fished it to Haddin behind stumps.