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India and South Africa Head Home As Australia and New Zealand Fly To Melbourne

March 27, 2015

CBBVAqNUkAAZKiDIt needed two top class performances from the finalists in order to separate themselves from the remaining two teams featuring in the ICC Cricket World Cup semifinals. As there was very little to choose between the top four keeping in mind the balance and form of the teams, it was always going to take some serious work on field for the winners to come off as the winners. The semifinals did promise a lot, and what a semifinal did we have between New Zealand and South Africa! After a long time we witnessed such a thrilling semifinal and we could not have asked for anything better. But the way this tournament has carried the trend of potentially greater contests ending up one sided, has again emerged in the other semifinal. But whatever has happened during these two matches, it has made sure that the best two teams will be performing on the biggest stage of MCG on Sunday. What made the hosts better on the given days is something what I am going to focus on.

One got to feel for South Africa. They have had so many heartbreaks in the past. Heartbreaks only made them stronger. But growing more and more strong, entering a tournament as one of the hot favorite contenders of its, and yet to continue choking when it matters the most have added more and more to their agony.

       Reasons behind failure:

Rain: Had there been no interruption in the game due to rain, South Africa were looking at 350 plus. Even though the after the match resumed they did everything what they could have done with the bat, it eventually could not overrule the fact that the Duckworth-Lewis method always favors the team batting second.

Absence of a genuine 5th bowler: In a major tournament you can’t always get away with this demerit. Also I felt dropping the in-form Kyle Abott and playing Philander ahead of him was a big mistake from their team management. Philander looked nowhere near his rhythm and his team had to pay the price for it.

Missed opportunities in the field: It is really strange to see what pressure can do to even top class teams. This is not the first time we saw South Africa choking under pressure, but what we saw for the first time is the way they choked in their strongest department. Yes, it was that kind of a night for them when the likes of AB and De Kock got the bells off without having the ball in the hands. I am not sure whether we will ever get to see the Proteas making schoolboy errors in the field like fielders colliding with each other and dropping a catch with both of them watching the ball and nobody calling for the catch.

SAvsNZ

New Zealand on the same night held their nerves and sealed their place for a world cup final debut. Although it might not have been the most comprehensive victories, but it doesn’t matter how you get over the line once you do so.

         Key to success:

Brendon McCullum’s aggression: The innings which Kiwi skipper played at the top had a lot to do with their victory. It always takes some hammering for any team to chase 7 runs per over right from the outset which he provided with his 59 striking at 225. He played his game with full of positive energy and this is going to be a huge asset for his team as they head towards Australia for the final.

Grant Elliott’s composure: No word is sufficient to praise the grand knock played by Grant Elliott on the grand day. There had been so many criticisms over his selection, but the reason he was picked for, he made a cent percent justice to that by staying cool, calm and composed under the critical circumstances. The South African born cricketer was the right man batting at the right position which made it possible for his team to win one heck of a contest.

Team India after going beyond every expectation in this tournament have had the taste of what have been their own medicine in the Mahendra Singh Dhoni era. The game is at times really cruel. How often have we seen a team winning all their matches, and then suddenly suffer a bad day which leads to their exit! India had came into the tournament as the champions, and played it like Champions before their campaign came to an end in front of a better equipped, well prepared and neatly shaped team. Still a few words I feel should be spent on their performance today.

        Reason behind failure:

Bowlers failed to deliver on the biggest day: I can understand that it’s a little harsh to blame the bowlers straightaway who had been fantastic throughout the tournament. But one will have to say that the Indian bowlers missed the trick against the Aussie batsmen and bowled completely in the wrong channel. At one stage of the game they tried to pull the things back, but since Australia bat very deep, some or other of their batsmen were always going to capitalize on the platform the top order provided to them.

Poor dismissals while batting: After a good opening partnership India kept loosing wickets at regular intervals. The poor shot selection and the resulting soft dismissals from many a few of their batsmen kept pushing them back. Chasing a target of 329 was never going to be possible without the partnerships. At least 2 of their top order batsmen had to score big, but nobody really kicked on. For Dhoni and Rahane it was important to make sure that they rebuild the innings first. It didn’t allow them to take the necessary risk against the Aussie part time bowlers. This kept lifting the asking run rate and once that went past 10, in a pressure match to do it against Australia in Australia it needed nothing short than a miracle.

Australia on the other hand, have been the better team today right from the toss. There is nothing much to say about their key to success more than Steve Smith, the man of the match. He came into bat after an early exit of David Warner and since then he looked as good as he is. At times it gave me feeling that it was he who was deciding where the Indians should bowl to him. Hence in spite of the contributions from a few other Aussie batsmen too, I would still term this match as a one man show starred by Smith.

With both the hosts heading towards Melbourne many will look back to what happened 4 years ago. As far as this tournament is concerned, many a few things have been going according to the footprints left 4 years ago. But still, a world cup final is a whole new ball game. Both the teams have been superb throughout the past 6 weeks. Two fantastic leaders from both the host nations will lead their team for the one final time for the ultimate shot at the ultimate glory. Not looking at the last world cup trends, but from the perspective of the home conditions, to me, it’s Advantage Australia.

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