India bossed their semi-final while the Aussies scraped through, setting up what many would see as the ideal ODI World Cup final.
India v Australia, Sunday 7:30pm (AEDT)
Venue: Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad
Head-to-head: Played 150; India 57 v Australia 83 (10 NR)
Last time: India def Australia by six wickets
And then there were two.
The two best teams of this World Cup face off in the final. It’s a promoter’s dream. But the way India and Australia have reached the Ahmedabad showpiece differs hugely. The hosts have dominated all comers, the Aussies included, in winning 10 on the bounce. Victory for them seems to be written in the stars — not only are they clearly the best sides and playing with a sizeable home advantage, but there couldn’t be a better way for this generation to salute and break a decade-long ICC trophy drought with victory over the Aussies.
Pat Cummins’ men, meanwhile, have trodden a far bumpier path to the final. Thumped in the first two games and in a perilous position early in the third, their campaign looked done; a shell of a side in the field, wayward with the ball and unsure with the bat. But they’ve swung the momentum beautifully. And if anyone is going to weather the huge pressure of Sunday in Ahmedabad and cause an upset, it’s this side.
And then there were two 🇮🇳 🇦🇺
— ICC Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) November 16, 2023
Last time out
Earlier in the tournament it was India who proved a class above Australia, prevailing by six wickets with a stack of balls to spare (52, to be exact) to get their tournament under way. It was of Ravindra Jadeja (3-28) and Kuldeep Yadav (2-42) who got things done for the hosts, skittling the Aussies for 199. Perhaps the worst thing for Australia, and ominously ahead of this one, was that they tore through India’s top order — the only bowling unit to do so this tournament, reducing India to 3-2 — and still lost comfortably. It speaks to India’s depth that if one, two or three guys miss out the next in line, in this case KL Rahul, will get you.
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How will the pitch play?
The short answer is: we don’t know. The likely answer is: it will likely assist spinners. There’s no secret about India’s influence over ICC pitch decisions and it can be correct to say both that a) the BCCI had a say in which pitch was picked for the semi-final against New Zealand and that b) it was still a great, high-scoring deck and India would have won irregardless. India would have watched on closely as the Aussies struggled to the South African left-arm wrist spin of Tabraiz Shamsi and finger spin of Keshav Maharaj. And given Kuldeep and Jadeja are very similar bowlers, their influence could be stark in this one. If there’s any grip in the surface the Aussies will have their work cut out. Not just against Kuldeep and Jadeja, but the wily Jasprit Bumrah whose cutters in the middle to late overs will be a handful.
“The perception is that ICC does what the BCCI wants and the reality looks as though that is the case.”
Mark Butcher has come down hard on the decision to change the pitch ahead of the World Cup semi-final in Mumbai yesterday.
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) November 16, 2023
Mitchell Starc v Rohit Sharma: Rohit has set the tone for India all tournament, blazing his way through the Powerplay and allowing the likes of Virat Kohli to shine later on. If Starc can replicate his semi-final efforts and strike early, it will go a long way to quelling India. On the other hand if Rohit gets off to a flyer then watch out.
Mohammed Shami v Travis Head: The exact same is true on the other side. Shami has been nothing short of incredible for India after (also incredibly) being left out of the XI early tournament. Head sets the tone for the Aussies arguably even more so than Rohit does for India, so his early fortunes — of which Shami will have a huge say — looms as crucial.
Ravindra Jadeja v Glenn Maxwell: Jadeja has an incredible record against Australia. He’s the bowler they’ve struggled against on the subcontinent for a decade. And he has an incredible ability to not just dry up the runs in the middle overs, but take wickets. The player best-suited to quelling his influence is Maxwell, putting the pressure back on India.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) November 2, 2023
In simple terms, if both teams play to their ‘normal’ level, India will without doubt win. Australia needs their match winners to fire and one or two to have incredible days; guys like Starc, Maxwell and Warner who have done it before in front of massive crowd with huge pressure. Pat Cummins will almost certainly bat first should the coin fall his way, and if the Aussies can put on 300+ and shift real pressure back on India — something they’ve hardly faced this tournament given they’ve been out in front on most occasions — then an upset is on.
But this India side is one of the most complete XIs we’ve seen in the last decade. They simply have no weaknesses. And in front of a raucous 100,000-plus home crowd, they should have enough to lift their third ODI World Cup.
Tip: India @ $1.44
Best bet: Top Home Team Batsman – Rohit Sharma (Ind) @ $3.80