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Australia beats India, sets up World Cup final vs NZealand

March 26, 2015

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia ended 2011 champion India’s unbeaten run at the World Cup with a 95-run victory Thursday that ensured the tournament co-hosts will meet in the final.

Steve Smith scored 105 and shared a 182-run partnership with Aaron Finch (81) to help Australia post 328-7, a record for a World Cup knockout match.

India started its chase confidently, with openers Shikhar Dhawan (45) and Rohit Sharma (34) surviving early scares to get the total to 76 in the 13th over before Josh Hazlewood broke through to change the momentum of the innings. Mitchell Johnson chimed in with two quick wickets and India was eventually out for 233 despite M.S. Dhoni’s late cameo of 65.

Australia will play unbeaten New Zealand in Sunday’s title match. New Zealand edged Australia by one wicket in the group stage to finish atop Pool A, then beat South Africa with a ball to spare in the semifinal at Auckland.

“To play a World Cup final against New Zealand at the MCG is going to be absolutely amazing,” Smith said. “Hopefully another hundred would be nice.”

India had won 11 consecutive World Cup matches dating back to a group-stage loss to South Africa in 2011. It finished off the previous tournament with wins over West Indies, Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and then won its first seven matches in the 2015 edition, becoming the only team to bowl out its opposition every time.

India had the majority of the support in the crowd with a huge contingent of traveling fans at the Sydney Cricket Ground but was unable to capitalize at a venue where it has only once previously beaten Australia in a limited-overs international.

Australia won the toss and elected to bat, and the Indian pacemen started well with Mohammed Shami beating the edge twice in the opening over and bowling a maiden in the third. Umesh Yadav (4-72) dismissed David Warner (12) to have Australia in trouble at 15-1 in the fourth over.

That brought Smith to the crease, and he picked up where he left off in the pre-World Cup matches against India. He scored a century in each of the four matches in the test series and 47 in a one-dayer during a stretch of two months when India didn’t win a match on Australian soil.

His second-wicket partnership with Finch gave Australia a flying start and a solid foundation before India rallied with Yadav (4-72) removing them both in quick succession.

Smith faced 93 balls and hit 11 boundaries and two sixes before Yadav struck with the first ball of his second spell, making the score 197-2 in the 35th over.

Finch continued with Glenn Maxwell, who belted 23 from 13 balls before sweeping Ravi Ashwin straight to Ajinkya Rahane at deep square leg.

Yadav dismissed Finch in the next over and then Michael Clarke (10) was out to Mohit Sharma, slowing the Australian strike rate right down again.

Shane Watson (28), James Faulkner (21) and Mitchell Johnson, who hit 27 from nine balls, contributed late to help Australia become the first team to post a 300-plus total in a World Cup semifinal.

“Smitty (Smith) is hitting the ball so sweetly, and I was so proud of the execution of our bowlers,” Australia captain Clarke said. “I think that loss to New Zealand gave us a kick up the backside. I still don’t think we’ve played the perfect game yet. We know it’s going to be tough against New Zealand.”

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