India to chase 329 for victory in Sydney semi-final

Steve Smith scored a brilliant century to lay a solid platform but Australia lost a string of wickets in the second half of their innings to finish with 328 for seven in the World Cup semi-final against India on Thursday. On a good Sydney Cricket Ground pitch in perfect weather conditions, the reigning champions will fancy their chances of overhauling the target of 329 and taking their place in Sunday’s final against New Zealand in Melbourne. Smith (105) came back to torment India in a partnership of 182 with opener Aaron Finch (81) to lead Australia to a comfortable position with close to 200 runs on the board, nine wickets in hand and over 15 overs to bat. With Umesh Yadav (4-72) to the fore, however, India struck back to remove the power-hitters in Australia’s middle order and disrupt their attempt to plunder runs in the later overs. ‘I think it’s a good total, we’re going to have to bowl and field well though,’ said Smith. ‘At the start, if you’re offered 330, I reckon you take that nine times out of 10. It’s going to be about squeezing and hopefully the bowlers can do a job for us.’ ‘It’s always nice getting hundreds at the SCG and hopefully the boys can back it up in the field now.’ Smith had come to the crease in the fourth over after Yadav had bounced out opener David Warner for 12 and rarely looked troubled for the remainder of his 122-minute knock. The bouncers were pulled, he called for a cap when the spinners came on and hit 11 fours and two sixes to give India a rude reminder of his prolific form in the test series around New Year, when he scored a century in all four matches.

The 25-year-old secured his fourth straight half century at the World Cup in 53 balls and was soon surging towards his fourth ODI century, which he secured with a six and a four off successive balls. Aaron Finch at the other end was looking less assured as he sought to end his run of poor form but he too reached the half century mark before his partnership with Smith was broken in the 35th over. Yadav again did the damage, his bouncer cramping Smith as he attempted the hook with the ensuing top edge flying to Rohit Sharma at deep square leg. Glenn Maxwell came out ahead of his skipper Michael Clarke and hit a brisk 23 off 14 balls before sweeping a Ravichandran Ashwin delivery to Ajinkya Rahane at deep backward square leg. The crowd, the majority wearing the blue of India, were roused and Finch soon departed as Yadav’s third victim with Clarke (10) and James Faulkner (21) following him back to the dressing room as Australia tumbled to 284 for six. Even the experienced partnership of Shane Watson and Brad Haddin (seven not out) was unable to steady the ship as Australia tried to balance the imperative of scoring quickly with making sure they did not run out of batsmen. Watson departed for 28 to give Mohit Sharma his second wicket and it was left to paceman Mitchell Johnson to bolster Australia’s tally closer to a par score with his 27 not out off nine balls. It was the first time in eight matches at the World Cup that India had failed to dismiss their opponents.

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