Australia will contest the Cricket World Cup final in Melbourne on Sunday, with one man’s form in particular having played a huge part in their successful run to the championship match.
Steve Smith’s latest century of a summer filled with runs off his bat helped account for India in Thursday’s semi-final at the SCG and booked Australia’s place in the final against co-hosts and trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand – prompting lavish praise for the batsman.
Ben Horne in the Daily Telegraph wrote that Smith’s claim to be being “the best batsman on the planet was enhanced in spectacular fashion” during his 93-ball 105, a knock which lifted Australia to an ultimately insurmountable total of 328-7.
So too his claim to assume the captaincy of the side in some stage in the future was given a shot in the arm, according to the Sydney Morning Herald’s Andrew Wu, who wrote that Smith’s effort “provided more compelling evidence as to why he has been anointed as Australia’s next long-term leader”.
The Australian’s Will Swanton, meanwhile, was effusive in his praise of Smith, who he said had “the discipline of a nerd” and “the flourishing follow-through of a 19th century French swordsman. He’s indefatigable. He’s infectious.” On Twitter, the praise flowed thick and fast.
Praise was not reserved solely for Smith though, with Malcolm Knox in the Sydney Morning Herald among those to highlight the key to Australia’s success so far this tournament. “They bat deep, they bowl deep, they are well led and they have no weak links in the field. New Zealand are in the final for the same reason, strength in depth,” Knox wrote. It was a view backed up by others.
For India, the beaten champions were left to lick their wounds, as a scapegoat in the form of MS Dhoni was offered up by the Daily Telegraph’s Carly Adno. “There was hope for India for as long as MS Dhoni was still at the crease, but in the semi-final of the World Cup the Indian skipper simply gave up,” she wrote of Dhoni’s dismissal, a run-out by Glenn Maxwell. “It was a superb throw, but Dhoni seemed to retire halfway down the pitch. There was no dive, no last-ditch attempt to make his ground, he simply ran straight down the tunnel.”
Still, that India managed to go as deep in the tournament as the semi-finals was at least cause for cheer in some circles.
So to Sunday’s final against New Zealand, a match that will be “cricket’s version of a neighbourhood dispute”, according to The Australian’s Peter Lalor. “The trans-Tasman tussle is not what organisers were hoping for, it won’t hold the subcontinent transfixed or keep the English awake, but it is without doubt a contest between the best two teams of the tournament.”
This article was written by Guardian sport, for theguardian.com on Thursday 26th March 2015 23.55 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010