Whenever India and Australia meet on a cricket field, fireworks can be expected. Over the past two decades, the two teams have played some memorable matches and nothing less was expected when they came head-to-head on the 26th of March, 2015 in the World Cup semi-finals at Sydney.
India were the defending champions and hadn’t lost a match in the tournament so far. Australia’s performance had been equally impressive. Emotions were expectedly high, the rhetoric even higher. The Kangaroos weren’t about to capitulate at home. They had waited four years for revenge for their 2011 quarter-final loss at Ahmedabad in the previous edition of the tournament.
Unfortunately for the Indian fans, revenge is what they got. Here is a look at the key moments that decided the match.
#1 Umesh Yadav leaks four boundaries in the tenth over
Australia won the toss and Michael Clarke immediately chose to bat first. It wasn’t an ideal start for the home team, though. They lost David Warner in the fourth over to an Umesh Yadav delivery and the task of stabilizing the innings fell on the shoulders of Aaron Finch and Steve Smith.
By the ninth over, their run-rate wasn’t one that would have gotten the Indians worried. With the opposition at a score of 40/1, MS Dhoni must have felt reasonably comfortable with the situation. Yadav was handed the ball for his fifth over and the bowler, perhaps due to a lapse in concentration, suddenly went wayward.
Trying to bounce Smith out, he bowled one misdirected bouncer after another and the Aussie gleefully slashed him to cover, dragged him to mid wicket and pulled him to square leg. The shackles that had tamed the Australian batsmen so far fell aside and they couldn’t be chained again.
#2 Steve Smith scores his fourth ODI century
Steve Smith carried on from that Yadav over, using it as a trampoline to power his team’s trajectory towards the sky. He partnered with Aaron Finch and the two batsmen scored 182 runs for the second wicket. There was no stopping Smith, who with 11 boundaries and two sixes, got the better of every Indian bowler.
He reached his century in 89 balls, leaping across the nervous nineties with a four and a six. Another boundary followed immediately after. He was looking to push into an even higher gear but it was Yadav who got him at an individual score of 105.
The Indian bowler finally got a bouncer up at Smith’s helmet who top-edged it to Rohit Sharma on the boundary at square leg with Australia just three runs short of 200. A miracle would have been needed for India to pull the match back and sadly, that wasn’t a day for miracles.
#3 Mitchell Johnson pummels the Indian death bowlers
The Indians managed to slow the Australians down in the last hour of the game. Their bowling was disciplined after Smith departed and their fielding tight. Australia probably fancied their chances of getting a score of 350 plus at one point but at the end of the 48th over they hadn’t even crossed 300. The Men in Blue would have hoped to restrict the target for their chase to under 315.
Enter Mitchell Johnson.
He faced nine of the twelve balls in the last two overs and scored 27 runs. Straight drives and cross-batted heaves sent the ball across the ropes and Australia ended with 328 runs on the board. If the Indians had fought their way into the match in the last 15 overs, Johnson’s cameo seized the momentum right back again.
#4 Virat Kohli loses patience and is dismissed
India got off to a stable start as Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan paid respect to the good deliveries and punished the loose ones. Dhawan, in particular, seemed in good knick. But the flashy left-hander has a habit of gifting his wicket when he should be looking for a big score and he fell after scoring 45.
Virat Kohli walked to the crease and it was clear from the outset that he was struggling. He couldn’t find the singles, mistimed his shots and played inside the line. From the first twelve balls he faced, he scored only one run.
Still, he could have persevered. A batsman of his calibre will only struggle for so long and whenever he plays a long innings, India almost certainly win. But on that day it wasn’t meant to be and Kohli couldn’t resist swinging impatiently at a Mitchell Johnson bouncer. The resulting edge was an easy catch for the wicketkeeper.
#5 The Dhoni helicopter runs out of fuel
MS Dhoni has won many matches for India. One of the greatest finishers the game has ever seen, he knows when to bide his time and when to accelerate. His instincts must have told him the team needed a partnership when he joined Ajinkya Rahane at the crease with the team’s score at 108/4 in 24 overs.
The pair knocked the ball around for the next hour building a platform, not caring that the required run rate had crept up to more than ten an over. The batting power play in the 35th over would have been the ideal time to charge as both batsmen were set but Rahane perished and the Indians only managed 26 runs in five overs.
When Dhoni tried to muscle the bowling, he got bottom edges. As he aimed for a heave over long on, he was only able to find a single. He managed two sixes in the 42nd over but it wasn’t enough to relieve the pressure.
The running between the wickets became desperate, trying to find runs where there weren’t any, and in the 44th over, the Indian captain was found short of the crease by a direct hit from Glenn Maxwell. Once their leader departed, the team surrendered meekly and India lost the match by 95 runs.