Second Semi Final – 2:30 pm AEDT on Thursday, March 26, 2015 at the Sydney Cricket Ground
Australia – $1.42 at www.Sportsbet.com.au
India – $3.00 at William Hill
If episode two of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup semifinals is anything like the first instalment, the patrons of the Sydney Cricket Ground will be in for a hell of a treat when Australia and India resume hostilities on Thursday afternoon.
It was New Zealand who emerged victorious from a nail-biting tussle with South Africa in Auckland on Tuesday, man-of-the-match Grant Elliott leading the Kiwis to their first ever final appearance with a six off the second last ball. That historic result sets up the delightful prospect of both co-hosts going toe to toe in the decider, meaning Australia must now negotiate the only two unbeaten teams in the tournament if they are to claim a fifth World Cup title.
The Aussies reached the final four with a six-wicket win over Pakistan in the quarterfinals last Friday, although it wasn’t quite the stroll in the park that the raw numbers seem to suggest.
Having scraped their way to 213, the Pakistanis pressed the hosts with a fierce fast bowling display at the Adelaide Oval. Wahab Riaz caused all sorts of problems and was unlucky only to end up with figures of 2 for 54, having had both Shane Watson and Glenn Maxwell dropped early in their respective innings.
The battle between Watson and Riaz ranks among the most intense duels of the tournament thus far, with both players sanctioned and fined part of their match fees by the ICC. More significantly, however, the Pakistani pacemen’s aggressive approach highlighted what some have suspected for a little while now: that, by and large, the Australian batsmen aren’t quite sure how to handle good short-pitched bowling.
Michael Clarke succumbed to what has become an all-too-familiar mode of dismissal, fending at a short ball on his ribs, while David Warner flailed a wide bouncer straight down third man’s throat. Watson and Maxwell’s early chances both came from Riaz bumpers, too.
That would’ve made very good viewing for an Indian seam attack which has been one of the revelations of World Cup 2015. Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma have snared 42 wickets between them – figures which stack up favourably against the collective 39 scalps to Australian quicks Mitchell Starc, Mitch Johnson, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
Shami, Yadav and Mohit may have to bear a bigger burden than expected on Thursday, as persistent wet weather means the usually spin-friendly Sydney wicket might not offer Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja the kind of assistance they would have hoped for. The Aussies have made no secret of their desire to see more grass on the SCG pitch, so it will be interesting to see what kind of surface Tom Parker, the curator, dishes up.
With few, if any, selection issues on either side, much of the pre-match talk has focused on the hostile gamesmanship which has become part and parcel of any Australia-India clash. The defending champions have dropped more than a few hints suggesting they will look to bait the always pugnacious Warner, whose name featured frequently on the match referee’s reports during the recent Test series between the two nations.
The similarly bellicose James Faulkner is expecting nothing less.
“It’s the nature of the game; it’s a semi-final, it’s cut-throat,” the Tasmanian all-rounder told the press on Monday.
“There’s going to be words said and it’s going to be a really tough contest. Neither team will be backing down.”
That febrility will only be heightened by what is expected to be a large and extremely vocal Indian turnout. Some pundits have even suggested the home supporters could be outnumbered on Thursday.
Even if that is the case, however, the Aussie players believe they have the psychological advantage after the recent tour in which India failed to win once in four Test matches and three ODI tri-series games.
“I think we’ll have a little edge over them with a few scars from the matches throughout the summer,” Steve Smith said to the press this week.
“They didn’t beat us once. So I think that’s going to be playing on their mind a little bit.”
– There is very little to report on the selection front for Australia. Josh Hazlewood’s 4 for 35 against Pakistan will surely see him preferred to Pat Cummins once again, while speculation over Aaron Finch’s place at the top of the order batting order should prove to be just that. Left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty is on ice in case the Sydney wicket comes up drier than expected, but otherwise there should be no alterations to the side that defeated Pakistan in the quarterfinals.
– They say you should never change a winning formula, and the Indians have stuck true to that adage throughout the tournament. But for a single group game against the United Arab Emirates, the 2011 World Cup winners have named the same lineup in every match thus far. Barring some late training injury out of the blue, India will almost certainly stick with the XI that has been responsible for six of their seven consecutive victories.
Australia: Michael Clarke (C), David Warner, Aaron Finch, Steve Smith, Shane Watson, Glenn Maxwell, James Faulkner, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (C), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohit Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav
Match betting predictions
Result: Australia to win – $1.42 at Sportsbet
Highest first 15 overs: India – $2.40 at Luxbet.com
Highest opening partnership: India – $2.05 at William Hill
Although there has been heaps of money for India over the last few days, Australia remain hot favourites to meet New Zealand in an MCG final on March 29. As such, the Indians are offering great value in just about every World Cup semifinal betting market. Given the kind of pyrotechnics Dhawan, Sharma and Kohli are capable of, $2.40 for India to score more in the first 15 overs look like a very good deal. Neither side has produced big opening stands with any real consistency, so India at $2+ there is one to consider as well.
Top match batsman tips
Steve Smith ($4.50 at Luxbet) – The young New South Welshman scored a nigh-on faultless 65 in Adelaide and was the only one who looked comfortable against an impressive Pakistani pace attack. His move to number three in the Aussie order has birthed three classy half-centuries in as many bats, and he looks primed for a big one on his home patch on Thursday.
Glenn Maxwell ($8.50 at CrownBet.com.au) – Believe it or not, the ‘Big Show’ is currently Australia’s top runscorer at the 2015 Cricket World Cup. Having belted 102 – his maiden One Day International century – against Sri Lanka on his last visit to the SCG, the Victorian all-rounder’s ability to score quickly makes him a real threat (and a value smokey) if he gets any amount of time at the crease.
Virat Kohli ($4.00 at www.Luxbet.com) – Kohli loves making runs against Australia, no matter the format. This is a guy who thrives in high-intensity games against India’s biggest rivals, as evidenced by his 107 against Pakistan at the start of the group stage. His World Cup has been littered with flashy 30s and 40s, but you get the feeling he is ready to dig in for the long haul against the Aussies.
Rohit Sharma ($4.33 at Sportsbet) – Sharma is the ultimate hit-and-miss player, which makes him a nightmare for tipsters. Still, it’s hard to ignore a guy who made 137 against Bangladesh in the quarters, and who also scored a century in his last limited-overs clash with Australia. Sydney has proven an amiable venue for big hitters throughout the 2015 World Cup – good news for a man with two ODI double-centuries to his name.
Top wicket-taker betting
Mitchell Starc ($3.40 at Bet365.com.au) – Starc has been one of the players of the tournament, with 18 World Cup wickets in six games to sit behind only New Zealand’s Trent Boult (21 wickets in eight matches) in the overall bowling charts. If, as expected, the Sydney wicket is a bit greener for the semis, the left-armer’s famous in-swinging yorker could wreak all kinds of havoc at the top of the Indian batting order.
Josh Hazlewood ($5.00 at Bet365) – One of the few right-arm seamers in Australia’s squad, Hazlewood all but sealed his spot in the semifinals with four wickets against Pakistan last week. The 25-year-old’s ability to hit good lines and move the ball away from the right-handers makes him a tough proposition on a pitch which should offer plenty for the seamers early.
Mohammed Shami ($3.75 at CrownBet.com.au) – With 17 wickets at an average of only 13.29, Shami has been one of the surprise stars of the 2015 ICC World Cup. The Bengal native has shown a great blend of discipline and aggression throughout, and his lethal short ball – which has claimed six victims already – could really trouble the Aussies if used judiciously.
Umesh Yadav ($4.50 at William Hill) – Even if the Sydney wicket dries out in time to give Ashwin and Jadeja some turn, Yadav is every bit as likely to do the damage. The 27-year-old has bowled with great pace and purpose in this World Cup, and he should be in excellent spirits after taking 4 for 31 against Bangladesh on a flat deck in Melbourne.