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Stuart Dalgleish 23rd Mar 2011 - 16:21

Australia are Haddin through to the semis

India v Australia - Thursday 09:00 live on Sky Sports 1

The hosts India (4/6) have to beat the most successful side in the history of the World Cup, Australia (6/5) if they're to reach the semi-finals of this tournament.

If the Indians do win, they'll set up another mouth-watering clash, with Pakistan in the last four.

This match should be the tie of the round, unless England are up to their old tricks again, and it's a shame that it has come at this stage as it would've made for a cracking final.

I suppose that is the punishment for both teams for failing to top their groups, South Africa should reap the rewards against New Zealand just like Pakistan have done in their match with West Indies.

But just which team will be left cursing their missed opportunities the most, the favourites or the three-times running champions?

The odds are obviously going to favour India because of the fact they're hosts, but write Australia off at your peril.

They have won 9 of their last 13 ODIs in India, and their pace bowlers that are already on fire are particularly dangerous in this part of the world.

Brett Lee (9/4 top Aus bowler), Mitchell Johnson (3/1) and Shuan Tait (3/1) have blitzed all before them, and they've been pretty economical along the way, they've not had much support from the spinners though and if the pitch is turning this is where India could hurt them.

Jason Krejza (9/2) has bowled more overs than anyone else in the team, but he's only picked up five wickets, Steven Smith (10/1) has delivered half as many balls for just one wicket, and if he's supposed to be a batsman (25/1 top Aus bat) then he's failing in that department too having only got 53 runs in three innings.

Australia are getting by with only half their team being on form at the minute, but then India are too.

The two elder statesmen of the respective teams could hardly be in more contrasting form; for India Sachin Tendulkar (11/4 top India bat) is in great touch, averaging 54 having scored two centuries in 326 runs for the tournament, he is 11/8 to score a 50 against Aus, if he doubles that score it will be his 100th 100 at international level, phenomenal.

And then there's Ricky Ponting (4/1 top Aus bat), the skipper hasn't scored a century since February 2010, but he did however get three scores of 70+ the last time he played in India, perhaps this is the time he puts his bad run to bed. He's 7/4 to get a half-century in this one.

Pressure is certainly on 'Punter' to perform, it won't go down as his best winter if the Aussies get booted out of the World Cup before the semis after their embarrassment in the Ashes.

Ponting isn't the only one under pressure though, some of the Indian batsmen are struggling under the weight of being hosts, Virat Kohli (9/2 top Ind bat) scored a fine century against a hapless Bangladesh attack but hasn't done much else other than that, Gautam Gambhir (7/2) has been steady rather than spectacular, the captain MS Dhoni (7/1) has made starts but not kicked on and Yusuf Pathan is having a mare no matter what position he comes in.

Harbhajan Singh (11/4 top India bowler) isn't having the tournament we expected, the spinner has just six wickets from six games, but thankfully for him Zaheer Khan (11/4) is having a blinder while Munaf Patel (9/2) and Yuvraj Singh (6/1) have offered great support with nine strikes apiece.

Yuvraj is definitely in the running for player of the tournament along with Shahid Afridi, whom he'll hope to face in the semis.

This game could be decided by which team puts the most on the board in their opening stand, it's not surprising to see the betting tight in this market with India 4/5 to get the highest opening partnership, Australia at 10/11 with the tie 20/1, the opportunists out there might be tempted to stick a few quid on that.

I think personally that Australia will make the most of their opening pair, with Shane Watson (11/4 top Aus bat) and Brad Haddin (9/2) paving the way for Ponting to finally put on a score at number 3, if the Aussies bat first the 6/5 on them winning the match will soon disappear so take advantage now.



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