The final of the #Cricket World Cup looks set to be an Antipodean extravaganza, after the co-hosts were both confirmed as the finalists for the 2015 version of the tournament. With New Zealand already safely through after their epic success over South Africa, Australia confirmed their date with their old rivals thanks to a convincing victory by 95 runs over the reigning champions, India earlier today. After posting a challenging total of 328-7, after winning the crucial toss, the hosts were always the more likely side to come through the semi-final and with India unable to retain sufficient wickets to make a late assault during their run chase, the match was effectively over long before the final wicket fell on 233. The Aussies will face the Black Caps in the final on Sunday, with many Down Under already looking forward to a mouth-watering finale to the lengthy competition.
India's run to the semi-final contest had been pitch-perfect, having sailed through their group and retaining a 100% record up to the clash with the Aussies. Having being beaten soundly in the games against the Baggy Greens in the build up to the event though, many were predicting similar in the last-four game. In the final analysis that is exactly what happened, as the Indians pursuit of 329 for the victory seemed to drift further away as the overs remaining ran down. With their inspirational captain MS Dhoni still at the crease, the visiting fans (who had come in their thousands to will their side on to another famous success) still retained some hope. Yet his innings was a curious one, seemingly content to leave the run assault until the very end. His strategy did not bear fruit, as despite a solid score of 65 he could never bring the total within reach and with his departure, the stands emptied dramatically as the away fans knew that their chances had gone.
Earlier, the Aussies were indebted in the main to Steve Smith (105) and Aaron Finch (81) for enabling them to post such a high score (the highest semi-final score in a World Cup), with a number of useful cameo knocks coming down the order. The pair put on a marvellous 182 second-wicket partnership that shaped the innings afterwards, although their total was reined in somewhat later on until Mitchell Johnson's 27 runs from just 9 balls added a bit of late gloss. Some pundits thought that even then they may have missed an opportunity by not scoring 20 or maybe even thirty runs more, but with the runs on the board their bowlers had an ample target with which to take on the (up to then) fluent Indian batsmen. Umesh Yadav was to be applauded for his bowling efforts, picking up 4-72, if a little on the expensive side.
After Johnson had ripped out the formidable Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in a typically fiery spell, the reply seemed to stutter and never really recovered. Dhoni hit some powerful blows to keep some hope alive, but the rate continued to grow to alarming proportions, and when Glenn Maxwell hit the one stump he could see to run him out, that was pretty much game over.
The end almost beckoned in a hat-trick for James Faulkner, but it was perhaps fittingly Mitchell Starc who had the final say and the final wicket of Yadav, having being the pick of the Aussie bowlers throughout the tournament so far. Faulkner deserved praise for coming back from an earlier onslaught on his bowling, to take the late wickets, with his final analysis of 3-59 reflecting his confident later bowling.
The home side were professional throughout, especially in the field where they performed a couple of sharp run outs, in addition to the control their bowlers maintained on the opposition. Australia will go into the final as slight favourites, especially as they will have home advantage this time. Their only defeat in the competition so far was at the hands of their rivals, an extremely close affair on New Zealand soil. The odds may be on the four-times champions triumphing this time, but lady luck seems to have been smiling on the still undefeated Black Caps, so they may have a surprise or two up their sleeves on the weekend. #Celebrities