Once again Mitchell Johnson produced a fiery bowling spell after gaining confidence from a swashbuckling innings. Johnson collected the two critical wickets of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma to slow India’s early momentum and ensure Australia retained their unbeaten run in World Cup semifinals.
MS Dhoni played his usual cat and mouse game but in the end the loss of too many early wickets in a monumental chase was beyond even one of his magical finishes. It was India’s worst nightmare; having to chase a huge total after Australia won the toss.
Nevertheless, India’s chase wouldn’t have been so desperate if it hadn’t been for Johnson’s late innings fireworks. Australia’s big total was set up by their star of the summer, Steve Smith.
Some would say Smith’s been more like a planet than a star and most times he’s been on a different one to his batting partner. Where Smith was comfortable from the first delivery he faced, scoring at a run a ball, Aaron Finch found batting a struggle. The Indian bowlers must be sick of the sight of Smith as he continued to torment them by walking across his crease and flicking the ball to the onside or pulling anything short of a length powerfully through mid-wicket.
The pair added a quick-fire 182-run partnership and at that stage it appeared India would be faced with an insurmountable chase well in excess of 350. However, the bowling that was so ragged during the early part of the summer, fought back brilliantly by consistently picking up wickets and breaking Australia’s rhythm. Apart from Smith, who gifted his wicket in search of a Mount Everest type target, the important scalps were Finch and then Glenn Maxwell.
Finch was bounced out and Maxwell lured to his demise by some shrewd captaincy by Dhoni and spin bowling by R Ashwin. The off-spinner failed to claim crucial wickets in the middle overs but he proved his value by bringing Maxwell’s innings to an end just as he was intent on launching a devastating assault.
Having performed heroically to drag India back into the match, the bowlers were thwarted by the brute strength of Johnson. It’s cruel game for bowlers, facing muscled up batsmen with huge chunks of willow and Mohammed Shami and Mohit Sharma’s figures suffered as Johnson peppered the boundary in scoring at three runs per ball. The most successful of the Indian bowlers was Umesh Yadav who mixed his pace and length to keep the batsmen guessing. Despite his four wicket haul, the much-vaunted Indian batting line-up was unable to create World Cup history.
So, the 2015 World Cup final is a repeat of the 2011 climax where the two host countries fought for the trophy. Four years ago it was big brother India who prevailed — I can see another repeat with big brother Australia defeating little brother New Zealand.