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Australia parade all-round might and send India home


MS Dhoni was the only Indian batsman to resist Australia.
Australia paraded their might all through Thursday in the Cricket World Cup 2015 semifinal against India at the packed Sydney Cricket Ground to set up a title clash with their neighbours New Zealand in Melbourne on Sunday. Australia's execution of skills were backed by a bit more intensity than India had answers to.
The scorecard will show the difference of 95 runs between the two teams. It will never speak of how the Australians came up with that extra effort each time the situation demanded. The statement of intent that Michael Clarke and his men made, first when batting and then when defending 328 for 7, was too powerful for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his team.
Steven Smith, who made a sublime century, and a so-out-of-sorts Aaron Finch at the top of the order, Glenn Maxwell during the batting Powerplay as well as James Faulkner and Mitchell Johnson with cameos at the end of the innings ensured Australia made the most of Clarke's decision to bat first on a track that had been rolled into a beauty.
Smith and Finch showed that they were ready for the Indian pacers to bowl the short deliveries. Smith pulled his way to boundaries while Finch was a bit more restrained, preferring to hold his end up rather than let India take a look at the middle order early after David Warner's exit in the fourth over.
The intent with which Australia bowled did not suggest that they had the luxury of 328 runs backing them. Johnson and Faulkner exemplified that in their dismissals of Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina respectively. Johnson had just been pulled for a six when he got the ball to sneak through Rohit's defences while Faulkner, hit for a four to mid-wicket, got extra bounce to get the edge of Raina's bat as he shaped to glide the ball to third man.
On the field, too, Smith showed that by racing in from cover to tell skipper Clarke that he should ask for a decision review for an edged catch off Starc. That he could hear the faintest of nick that did not interest the bowler and the wicketkeeper was testimony to Smith's sharp focus.
India's chase was always depended on how the batsmen applied themselves to the task of keeping their wickets intact against a team whose captain has said several times that he would always look to bowl the oppositions out. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit survived a tough start and put on 76 runs at a fair clip. That was the only time India were in the hunt.
Dhawan scooped Josh Hazlewood to the man at deep extra cover. Virat Kohli, hero of two of India's successful chases of 350-plus scores against Australia in Jaipur and Nagpur a year and a half ago, fell playing an audacious pull against a Johnson bouncer from outside the off-stump and succeeding only in top-edging a simple catch for Brad Haddin.
It is not as if the Australian innings did not have any soft dismissals, Clarke's fall to a Mohit Sharma short ball was one such but Australia were well on the way to a large total by then. Dhawan, Kohli and Raina's dismissals came too early in the Indian innings and left the team to read the writing on the wall.
India had a chance to keep Australia to just below the 300-run mark but did not have the firepower to stop the surge, though the home side kept losing wickets. The Indian pacemen conceded 57 runs in the last five overs. And the Indian batsmen did not give themselves enough time at the crease to exploit the weak links in the Australian bowling.
Of course, Dhoni showed character in playing a knock that kept the Indian fans in their seats longer than they would have wanted to after the top-order batsmen felt the pressure of having to launch and sustain a big chase. A year and a half ago, Dhawan, Rohit and Kohli had engineered two spectacular chases of 350-plus scores against Australia
Australia had missed out on the World Cup final in 2011 in Mumbai, having lost to India in the quarterfinal in Ahmedabad then. They will face first-time finalists New Zealand in the title clash that will have all the elements of the trans-Tasman rivalry of several decades.
Brief scores: Australia 328/7 in 50 overs (Smith 105, Finch 81; Yadav 4/72) beat India 233 all out in 46.5 overs (Dhoni 65, Dhawan 45, Rahane 44; Faulkner 3/59) by 95 runs
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