Australia’s pace bowlers have finished the job Steve Smith started to send the co-host storming into a seventh World Cup final with a 95-run victory over champion India at the SCG.
Australia moves on to the Melbourne Cricket Ground and a shot at a fifth title against New Zealand on Sunday, while India heads home after coming up short in its bid to retain the title it won four years ago.
Smith’s 105 helped Australia to a total of 7 for 328, and although skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit a defiant 65 in what might be his final one-day innings, India was dismissed for 233 in the 47th over.
India might have fancied its chances of chasing the target down after making a solid start on a good pitch in perfect weather conditions and backed by the majority of a noisy crowd of 42,330 in Sydney.
Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood had other ideas, however, and they tore the heart out of India’s top order by sending Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma back inside six overs.
When James Faulkner, got into the act by dismissing Suresh Raina, India had lost four of its most coveted wickets for the addition of just 32 runs to fall to 4 for 108. Johnson’s bowling was as potent as it has been all tournament and the delivery that clean bowled Rohit a ball after the opener had the temerity to hit him for six sent one bail flying six metres behind the stumps.
Dhoni and Ajinkya Rahane with 44 set about rebuilding the innings with a partnership of 70 but when the captain was run out ambling down the wicket by a direct hit from Glenn Maxwell, the die was cast.
Faulkner added a flourish by bowling Ravichandran Ashwin and Mohit Sharma in successive deliveries to finish with 3 for 59 but Umesh Yadav blocked the hat-trick ball. Smith had earlier reprised his role as India’s tormentor-in-chief, rarely looking troubled in his 122-minute, 93-ball knock and sharing a second-wicket partnership of 182 with opener Aaron Finch who scored 81.
The 25-year-old hit 11 fours and two sixes. He secured his fourth straight half century at the World Cup in 53 balls and was soon surging towards his fourth ODI century, which he secured from 89 balls with a six and a four off successive deliveries.
With Yadav to the fore, however, India struck back to remove Smith and then the power-hitters in Australia’s middle order. A late Johnson cameo of 27 not out off nine balls, however, helped bolster Australia’s tally.
The 11th edition of the World Cup will be contested by the co-hosts Australia and New Zealand on Sunday at the SCG.