After New Zealand’s thrilling victory over South Africa, Australia and India will meet in a heavyweight semifinal contest for the right to take on the co-hosts in Sunday’s 2015 Cricket World Cup final. In contrast to the first final four matchup, featuring two teams looking to make it through to a final for the first time, the second features the two most successful counties in World Cup history. India have their eye on a third trophy and a defense of the title they won on home soil in 2011, while Australia are aiming to land the World Cup for a fifth time.
The two teams have played out one of the most frequent rivalries in World Cups, facing off 10 times previously. Australia have come out on top on seven occasions, but India won last time around, in the quarterfinals four years ago. The roles, however, are now reversed, with Australia having home advantage.
Much of the talk ahead of the match has surrounded just how significant that advantage will be. Not only is the Sydney Cricket Ground venue expected to be 70 percent filled with India fans, but the pitch has a reputation for being more favorable the kind of spin bowling that has long been a strength for India, rather than Australia’s strong suit of pace bowling. In the last match played at the SCG, South Africa’s spinners took seven wickets in a quarterfinal win over Sri Lanka. Yet India’s pace attack have surpassed expectations in this World Cup to help the team win all seven matches so far. And India batsman Rohit Sharma insists they have the quality to win on any kind of surface against Australia.
“If you look at the tournament we have taken 70 wicks in seven games, and it has been distributed by the spinners and the fast bowlers,” he said in the pre-match press conference. “So it doesn’t matter how the wicket behaves, whether it’s going to give the fast bowlers a lot of assistance or the spinners. We’ve got everything covered in those two areas. It’s a good sign to go into the semifinal. We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing -- I think the bowlers have done a fantastic job throughout the tournament. Let’s hope they can come out and do it tomorrow as well.”
Rohit scored 137 to fire India to victory against Bangladesh in the quarterfinals and continue what has been a superb run for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men, after what was a disappointing buildup to the tournament. Australia have so far met expectations, progressing solidly through to the last four. The champions for three tournaments running between 1999 and 2007 lost narrowly to New Zealand in Auckland in the group stage, but have won all their matches on home soil. And captain Michael Clarke has backed his side the handle the weight of expectation to secure a rematch with their neighbors and fellow co-hosts in the final.
“I think already you’ve seen the guys handle it really well throughout the tournament,” he said. “The way they played in the quarterfinal against Pakistan was really pleasing. Expectation is there because we’re the number one ranked One-Day team in the world. The reason you have expectation on you is because you’ve performed. There’s been a lot of talk about pressure and expectation, but that’s what comes with the role of playing cricket at the highest level. There’s no greater expectation that what you put on yourself. I think the boys will be fine.”
Match time: Thursday, 2:30 p.m. local time. Wednesday, 11:30 p.m. EDT.
TV channel: DISH Network, Mediacom and Time Warner Cable subscribers can watch all matches via pay per view. More info here.
Live streaming info: India vs. Australia, as well as the final will be available via ESPN's digital subscription service, costing $39.99.
Live score updates available here.