Sydney: Defending champions India will hope the law of averages does not catch up with them when they clash with hosts Australia in a widely-anticipated World Cup semi-final in Sydney on Thursday.
Australia just once in 35 years in a one-day international at the Sydney Cricket Ground when a Sachin Tendulkar century helped them win the first of the three-match tri-series final in 2008.
But Mahendra Singh Dhoni`s men have confounded critics by recovering from a winless bilateral tour of Australia before the World Cup to brush aside all-comers in the tournament.
Starting with two wins against Pakistan and South Africa, India won all six group matches to top Pool B and then downed spirited Bangladesh by 109 runs in the quarter-finals.
Amazingly, India have piled up 300-plus scores every time they have batted first and dismissed the opposition in all seven matches so far.
India now confront a side that has won seven of their 10 World Cup meetings against them, although Dhoni`s men secured a five-wicket win in the quarter-final at home in Ahmedabad four years ago.
Four-time champions Australia have won all six semi-finals they have appeared in since the inaugural event in 1975, but India will consider the SCG as the best venue to halt that record.
Groundsman Tom Parker has kept both teams guessing on the nature of the pitch he will unveil for the semi-final, but the wear and tear at the end of a long season indicates spin-friendly conditions.
South African spinners Imran Tahir and JP Duminy shared seven wickets to bowl out Sri Lanka for 133 in the quarter-final at the SCG last week, setting up a nine-wicket win for the Proteas.
But the bat dominated the ball in previous World Cup games at the venue, with Australia piling up 376 for nine against Sri Lanka and South Africa smashing 408 for five off the West Indies` attack.
Australian coach Darren Lehmann expected a wicket similar to the one his team got for the match against Sri Lanka and predicted a high-scoring encounter.
“I think the pitch will be very similar to the one we used in the game against Sri Lanka when almost 700 runs were scored, so I think this will be another high-scoring affair,” Lehmann wrote on the official Cricket Australia website www.cricket.com.au.
“But finals seem to have a way of working out differently sometimes. So even if the pitch is a belter, you have to do the basics well enough to produce a high score. And then bowl well enough to defend it.”
Lehmann felt that constant meetings with India over the summer would “add an extra element to what already looms as an enthralling contest.”
“India are really starting to gain some confidence on the back of some good performances since the tournament began, but we know them inside out — just as they do us.
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