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India prepare for Aussie threat Published: 23 March 2011

India and Australia go head-to-head for the right to take on Pakistan in the ICC World Cup semi-final when they meet in the second quarter-final in Ahmedabad.

All the pressure will be on hosts India, who are favourites to move forward to a mouthwatering clash with their arch rivals.

Reigning champions Australia have already seen their record 34-match unbeaten World Cup run ended by Pakistan and have considerable worries ahead of the India tie.

Rick Ponting’s men will look to prey on the enormous pressure which will be piled upon Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men from a frenzied sell-out crowd.

Dhoni is sweating on the fitness of opener Virender Sehwag, who has a knee problem, and Gautam Ghambir could once again partner Sachin Tendulkar the top of the order.

Heads or tails?

Should India win the toss in Ahmedabad, it will be fascinating to see what Dhoni opts to do.

The skipper chose to bat when winning the toss in four of the five group games (Ireland the exception) though with such a prolific batting line-up at his disposal, many pundits have suggested chasing would be a better option.

India's bowling attack is weak in comparison to their batting and has struggled to defend even imposing totals.

England came agonisingly close to passing the 338 required early in the tournament while South Africa successfully chased 297 in the penultimate group game - India's only defeat in the tournament so far.

Should they opt to bat first the emphasis will will placed on Zaheer Khan, their standout bowler and attack leader, to contain the Australian chase.

Yuvraj Singh could also prove useful in both departments. His left-arm spin has collected nine wickets - second only to Zaheer (15) in the India side.

Pace aces

Australia may well feel their best chance of restricting India's batting juggernaut will lie in the pace of their attack.

Veteran new ball bowler Brett Lee has 12 wickets in the tournament while Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson add serious amounts of raw speed too.

The Aussies are certain to test India's top order with some short pitched deliveries early on, though whether or not they will receive any assistance from the pitch is yet to be seen.

Australia captain, Ricky Ponting, will be desperate to restrict India’s scoring as his own side have looked drastically out of form with the bat.

The struggling skipper has made just 102 runs so far, with a top score of 36, and is under pressure at number three.

Much will therefore be expected from openers Brad Haddin and Shane Watson, who have collectively made 544 runs with six half centuries in 12 innings.

Key battle - Zaheer v Haddin & Watson

India rely as heavily on their star seamer as Australia have on their opening pair so far in this competition.

If the left-armer can make early breakthroughs and expose a struggling Aussie middle-order, India could be well on their way to a World Cup semi-final.

Verdict

Australia are a waning force and claiming a fourth consecutive World Cup seems unlikely, but India’s average bowling attack presents them with a chance.

India’s batsmen have the run-scoring capability to flatten any opposition though, particularly if Australia’s quick bowlers struggle.

And there is also the small matter of Sachin Tendulkar. The 'Little Master' is just one century short of his 100th ton in the international game. If he manages it in Ahmedabad a joyous crowd could carry India on a wave of celebrations and into the semi-finals.

India to edge a nerve-jangling match.


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