World Cup: Pumped-up India ready for challenge from Bangladesh Tigers

  • AFP, Sydney
  • Updated: Mar 19, 2015 07:50 IST

Defending champions India look to tighten their iron grip both on the World Cup and on Bangladesh when the two neighbours meet in Melbourne for a semi-final spot Thursday.

India have reached the quarter-finals with six wins in six pool games, bowling out the opposition every time.They are heavily-favoured to become the second team in the last four after South Africa qualified on Wednesday.

History is on their side. They have defeated Bangladesh 24 times since their first meeting in 1998 and have lost just three -- although one of those came in the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean which led to India's early exit.

Suresh Raina, whose unbeaten 110 helped India chase down Zimbabwe's 288-run target for a hard-fought six-wicket win in their concluding pool game in Auckland last weekend, says the Indians are ready to "express themselves."

It's been a marathon buildup for India in defence of their World Cup crown, starting last November for their win-less Test and one-day matches in Australia.

But they have been transformed at the World Cup and a win at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday will set-up a semi-final against either Australia or Pakistan.

"We've spent a lot of time in Australia for the last four and a half months so we're used to the conditions more than other teams," said Raina.

"People are really pumped up for the quarter-finals. We have done really well in the last six games.

"It's the quarter-final stage now, you don't have much room for error. You just need to do everything right, whether you're bowling, batting or fielding. The main World Cup is going to start Thursday."

Indian batsmen Shikhar Dhawan (337 at 56.16) and Virat Kohli (301 at 75.25) are among the leading run-getters in the tournament while Bangladesh's bowlers have only dismissed two sides -- Afghanistan and England.

"It will be a high-scoring match on a flat pitch. We have to bowl well definitely," said Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Mortaza.

"It is the biggest challenge to bowl to India batsmen and the Indian bowlers have been pretty good.

"I think we have to bat as well as we did against New Zealand or England or any other side."

Thursday's game will bring cricket-mad Bangladesh to a virtual standstill, with many fans planning to watch on giant screens and millions attending match-day parties.

The team's progress to a first ever quarter-final has also helped lift the gloom caused by the country's current violent political strife.

"Back home all people were expecting that we could beat some bigger sides and go through. That was the most pressure I think," Mortaza said.

Friday sees four-time champions Australia face 1992 winners Pakistan who suffered a major setback when giant fast bowler Mohammad Irfan was ruled out of the rest of the World Cup with a stress fracture of the pelvis.

The winner of that Adelaide match will face either India or Bangladesh for a place in the final.

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