Australia face great unknown on state of final wicket

Scott Bailey |

Australia concede they have no idea what type of pitch will be served up for the World Cup final after a week of drama around the wickets in India.

Thursday night’s nail-biting three-wicket win over South Africa booked Australia a spot in an eighth World Cup final, ahead of a date with hosts India on Sunday.

Victory did not come easy with Australia forced to overcome a collapse on a Kolkata wicket that produced the most turn of any match in the tournament.

But that challenge could be significantly enhanced in Sunday’s final.

Mumbai officials drew criticism during the week when they switched from using a fresh wicket to a used pitch for the semi-final between India and New Zealand.

The ICC were then forced to defend the decision amid claims the call to use the worn wicket had been made at the behest of Indian officials to suit the home side and their spinner.

The Daily Mail also published what they claimed to be a leaked email from independent ICC pitch consultant Andy Atkinson. 

Atkinson asked in the mail whether Sunday’s final would be the first in World Cup history to be “specifically chosen” by the home side, rather than it being “prepared without favouritism.”

Australia lost 4-89 from 28 overs against spin on Thursday night in their pursuit of 213 and when asked whether that was a concern for the final, Mitchell Starc was blunt in his reply.

“I guess we’ll find out when we get to Ahmedabad tomorrow and see if it’s a fresh wicket or an old wicket,” Starc said.

Ravindra Jadeja (l) and Kuldeep Yadav (r) are expected to play dominant roles in Sunday’s final.

An old wicket would have the potential to play right into unbeaten India’s hands with Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav and Ravichandran Ashwin all part of India’s squad.

The trio each played in India’s opening win of the tournament against Australia on a slow Chennai wicket, taking 6-104 from 30 overs.

Australia have, however, vowed to embrace the challenge of Narendra Modi Stadium, which has the potential to host 130,000 local fans for the match.

“It’s why we play the game. We want to take on the best,” Starc said. 

“They’ve been the best in the tournament so far and we both find ourselves in the finals. So that’s what World Cups are about. 

“We played them in the first game of the tournament, now we get to take them on in the last. What a place to be at the end of a World Cup.”

The prospect of a used spinning wicket could also make the opening 10-over powerplays crucial, as it proved for Australia on Thursday.

Starc and Josh Hazlewood managed to contain the Proteas to 2-18 before Travis Head and David Warner exploded out of the blocks.

The opening pair were 0-60 after the first six overs against the quicks, making a big dent in the chase before South Africa’s spinners put the brakes on.

“That certainly took some pressure off early with the way that the guys started,” Starc said. 

“And obviously it was much needed with how we saw the back end of the game, and giving ourselves a bit of extra time not to have to go so hard.”