Where: Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad
When: Sunday, November 19
Australia squeaked past South Africa (again) in a Cricket World Cup semi-final to set up a showdown with hosts India in Ahmedabad on Sunday. India has played ten and won ten in this tournament so far, using home soil to their advantage and rarely being tested as they progressed through the pool table at the top of the log with matches to spare. They then took down New Zealand with relative ease in their semi-final, blasting the Black Caps for 397 runs in their innings before dismissing New Zealand for 327 and winning by a comfortable 70 runs.
Australia won seven and lost two in the group stage, finishing with 14 points, level with the Proteas. This set up a third Cricket World Cup semi-final between the two rivals, with Australia coming out on top for the third consecutive time. After dismissing South Africa for just 212, the Aussies looked to be cruising. There were stumbles late, but their lower middle batting did enough to steer them through by three wickets with 16 balls to spare.
The scary part of this Indian team is how well-balanced it is. They can beat you with aggressive or patient batting, they can beat you with a bowling attack that has any number of ways to get you out, and they can beat you with a fielding masterclass. Add in the way that they are being cheered on to greater exploits by their home crowd, and you have a team that will be exceptionally difficult for New Zealand – or anyone – to beat in this tournament.
Virat Kohl is having an exceptional tournament. He is now the all-time leader in ODI centuries as he clubbed his 50th in the semi-final. He has 711 runs this tournament, which is the most of anyone in the competition, and he will be looking to extend that in the final.
Australia is the best team in cricket history when it comes down to knockout play. Their trophy tunnel vision as a nation is on point, and they have won this trophy five times in all and four times in a row when they have made it to the final. If any team can beat India in a one-off match with a trophy on the line, it is Australia.
I think it is fair to say that the best two teams in the tournament are meeting in the final. South Africa and New Zealand played well – while England will look at this World Cup as a missed opportunity – but India versus Australia is the correct match for the final.
The wicket here has historically been one for spinners. That has changed over the years, with an increase in runs as the track has got quicker. South Africa put up the highest-ever score here in 2010 when they went 365/2. With the way India is batting, that record could be under threat.
This is the eighth time that the two sides have met in 2023, so nothing will shock either side. India won by six wickets earlier in the tournament, and I think they will win again here, given their hot form.
I like Kohli at 28/10 to be the best batsman, as he is in fire. I also like Mitchell Marsh at 4/1 to be the best on show for Australia.