AUSTRALIA will face New Zealand on Sunday in their attempt to win a fifth World Cup after defeating defending champions India by 95 runs in their semi-final in Sydney.
Australia’s slow-and-steady approach batting first reaped rewards through Steven Smith’s first World Cup century and Aaron Finch’s 81 as, despite Umesh Yadav’s 4-72 pegging them back, late hitting from Mitchell Johnson (27no) meant they posted a commanding 328-7.
James Faulkner then produced the heroics with the ball to bag 3- 59 as India’s response never got beyond promising 40s from their leading batsmen. Only captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s run-a-ball 65 avoided defeat by a bigger margin with the run chase ending on 233 in the 47th over.
Australia have World Cup triumphs from 1987, 1999, 2003 and 2007 to their name, but they had a nervy start against India’s seamers, as a menacing Yadav eventually forced a leading edge off David Warner (12) who looped to Virat Kohli at mid-off.
Four fours in an over from Smith saw Australia reach 56-1 after 10 and the stand-in Test captain reached his half-century off 53 balls, shortly before the century partnership came off 114.
Australia were content to keep the scoreboard ticking over with singles and it induced a desperate India to waste a review off Ravindra Jadeja’s bowling, as Finch’s not out decision on an lbw stood.
Smith, who ended five runs short of a ton against Afghanistan in the pool stages, showed aggression in short bursts and reached three figures off 89 balls, but exited for 105 soon after as his slog off Yadav found Rohit Sharma at deep square leg.
That ended a partnership of 182 with Smith’s knock coming off 93 balls with 11 fours and two sixes.
Glenn Maxwell made a breezy 23 off 14 balls, getting Australia past 200, but was a bit too keen to win his much-publicised battle with Ravichandran Ashwin and ended up slog-sweeping him to deep square leg.
As Finch popped a short one from Yadav to Shikhar Dhawan at mid-wicket, Australia’s late momentum was stalled at 233 for four with skipper Michael Clarke (10) also falling cheaply to Mohit Sharma.
Australia limped to a first 300 total in World Cup semi-final history after Faulkner and Shane Watson fell for 21 and 28 respectively - but Johnson lit up the last few overs, cracking four fours and a six.
India’s run chase had a controversial start when Rohit (34) edged Mitchell Starc to slip in the first over, but an umpire review showed the ball bounced just before Watson caught it.
Dhawan then survived with wicketkeeper Brad Haddin putting down a difficult caught-behind chance. Rohit responded by hooking Johnson for six, with Dhawan helping India to 55 in 10 overs courtesy of two fours and a six off Faulkner.
The opening stand was finally broken on 76 as Josh Hazlewood had Dhawan caught by Maxwell in the deep before new man Kohli’s painful innings of one in 13 balls ended when he was beaten for bounce by Johnson for a simple catch to Haddin.
Johnson had his tail up and got his revenge for a Rohit six by bowling him next ball and, after they slowly reached 108, things got worse with Suresh Raina caught behind off Faulkner.
With 221 still required, skipper Dhoni helped steer India to 138 for four in 30 overs, and engineered a relatively risk-laced 70-run fifth-wicket partnership with Ajinkya Rahane, the latter forced to abandon his natural patience.
However, Starc would have his man, as Australia successfully reviewed for a caught behind and the slightest of edges saw Rahane depart for 44, while the faintest of India hopes left when Jadeja was run out for 16 after a brilliant direct hit from Smith.
Dhoni cracked two sixes to reach his 50, but the run rate was proving insurmountable and his run out by Maxwell in the 45th over was the beginning of the end.
Faulkner dispatched Ashwin and Mohit in successive deliveries, while Yadav survived the hat-trick ball but was bowled quickly after by Starc.