Australian top-order set-up the game and it’s a day Steve Smith will never forget

It was a special day at the SCG and the weather was picture perfect for such a big match. There was so much expectation always on the second semi final, mainly because they had wait that little bit longer before it unfolds. So much at stake a place in a World Cup Final at the MCG on Sunday and a chance to secure your country’s name in history. India has been in Australia for a long time now and had gained some good momentum coming into the final. They hadn’t beaten Australia yet and ahead of the semi final you felt that just maybe it could have been different, but it wasn’t to be.

Australia won the toss and batted and I feel this was a big advantage in such a big match to get runs on the board in a World Cup semi final. The much talked about pitch was very flat with a little bit of bounce with the quicker bowlers from India and Australia able to extract that extra bounce. India’s energy in the field was brilliant you could see they were really up for everything.

For a while when India took a couple of wickets during the Powerplay, they were able to squeeze Australia for a period.  Even the crowd was getting behind the India team and you have to remember this is being played at the SCG. At one stage, because India was taking regular wickets, it looked as though maybe it might be able to restrict Australia to below 300.  This has been an area where India has been really good at the end of the innings in this World Cup, but just not in the semi final. I believe Australia got a few free runs towards the end which helped the momentum swing back to Australia going into the break. This can happen when you bat first and someone in the lower order chances their arm, and it can come off as it did for Mitch Johnson.

Well, if Steve Smith doesn’t have a sunscreen sponsor he should because he has spent so much time in the sun this summer! What a brilliant hundred in such a big match. I said in the lead in that someone in the top three had to deliver and they did. Smith just played on a different surface to the other batsmen in this match. To go on and bat the way he did put his team a strong and man of the match performance.

Aaron Finch did a solid job holding the innings together. Ok, he didn’t hit every ball in the middle but he found a way to get through. Maxwell was promoted in the order to four and he chanced his arm. He has had many battles with Ravichandran Ashwin over recent times but in this match Ravi won and I am certain there will be many more. Umesh Yadav was brilliant, he went for a few runs but he picked up some key wickets bowling aggressively. All the bowlers were good they just leaked a few more runs at the end which just made the difference.

India, with the bat in hand, had a few lucky breaks early on. Rohit Sharma at slip and Dhawan behind the wicket, this little momentum swing toward India. I had a feeling Australia we’re just panicking a little after a jittery start in the field. At 0 for 76 they were just getting away when Dhawan nailed an off drive straight down deep point throat and he was out. From then on India’s luck changed.  Mitchell Johnson came straight into the attack when Kolhi came to the crease. Good captaincy from Clarkey by picking up Kolhi and Rohit in a short sharp burst of good pace. Sharma was looking like he was settled at the crease launch into a pull shot for six when Mitch’s reply with a thunderbolt clipping the bail and removing the dangerous Sharma.

When Suresh Raina was out it really swung into the Aussie favour. MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja came together they had so much to do that total of 328 exploded out towards the end was just too much for them. Australia really started to get into its stride and removed both guys with direct hit run outs.

Runs on the board in a match of this magnitude were so important because it left a lot to do for the Indian top order against this bowling line up that is firing at the right time. Mitch Johnson has had a quiet tournament by his standards but took the wickets of Kohli and Rohit as there were the real dangers at the top of the order.

The other Mitch is still going from strength to strength with this white ball. He is getting stronger by the day, and now he pace is right up there and still at times looks like he is doing it easy. I suppose in the end an easy win by Australia as the margin looks like that but some hard work by Australia top order really set the game up.

For Australia, it was a day Steve Smith won’t forget easily – a hundred at the SCG in a World Cup semi final with his friends and family in the crowd will always be special to him.

Courtesy: ICC

 

(One of the most successful all-rounders at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003, Andy Bichel scored 117 runs in three innings and took 16 wickets in 8 matches, including a career-best seven for 20 against England in Port Elizabeth. In the same match, he scored 35 not out and put on 73 runs for the unfinished ninth wicket with Michael Bevan (74 not out) to snatch victory for Australia from the jaws of defeat. The 44-year-old Queenslander played 67 ODIs in which he scored 471 runs and took 78 wickets)