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SYDNEY: Steve Smith's sublime century laid the groundwork and Australia's pace bowlers finished the job to send the co-hosts storming into a seventh World Cup final with a 95-run victory over champions India on Thursday.

Australia move on to the Melbourne Cricket Ground and a shot at a fifth title against New Zealand on Sunday, while India head home after four months Down Under having come up short in their bid to retain the title they won four years ago.

Smith's 105 helped Australia to a total of 328 for seven, the highest in a World Cup semi-final, and although skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit a defiant 65 in what might be his final one-day innings, India were dismissed for 233 in the 47th over.

India might have fancied their chances of chasing the target down after making a solid start on a good pitch in perfect weather conditions and backed by the majority of a noisy crowd of 42,330 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

When James Faulkner, who had been hammered for 23 runs by Dhawan in his first two overs, got into the act by dismissing Suresh Raina (7), India had lost four of their most coveted wickets for the addition of just 32 runs to fall to 108-4.Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood had other ideas, however, and they tore the heart out of India's top order by sending Shikhar Dhawan (45), Virat Kohli (1) and Rohit Sharma (34) back inside six overs.

Johnson's bowling was as potent as it has been all tournament and the delivery that clean bowled Rohit a ball after the opener had the temerity to hit him for six sent one bail flying 20 feet behind the stumps.

Faulkner added a flourish by bowling Ravichandran Ashwin and Mohit Sharma in successive deliveries to finish with 3-59 but Umesh Yadav blocked the hat-trick ball.Dhoni and Ajinkya Rahane (44) set about rebuilding the innings with a partnership of 70 but when the captain was run out ambling down the wicket by a direct hit from Glenn Maxwell, the die was cast.

Smith had earlier reprised his role as India's tormentor-in-chief, rarely looking troubled in his 122-minute, 93-ball knock and sharing a second-wicket partnership of 182 with opener Aaron Finch (81).

He secured his fourth straight half century at the World Cup in 53 balls and was soon surging towards his fourth ODI century, which he secured from 89 balls with a six and a four off successive deliveries.The 25-year-old hit 11 fours and two sixes to give India a rude reminder of his prolific form in the test series around New Year, when he scored a century in all four matches.

With Yadav (4-72) to the fore, however, India struck back to remove Smith and then the power-hitters in Australia's middle order.

A late Johnson cameo of 27 not out off nine balls, however, helped bolster Australia's tally and India will rue their failure to dismiss their opponents for the first time in eight matches at the World Cup.


Former West Indies batting legend Brian Lara has implored the senior players of Pakistan to wake up from their slumber if they are to harbour hopes of making it to the quarter-finals, a report published by NDTV said.

“Pakistan will have to wake up some time in the tournament. Some of their top players are still asleep, they have to wake up,” he said.

“Back in 1992, Pakistan had a lot of match-winners. Imran was an inspirational leader. His team members spoke of them being cornered tigers.

“This Pakistan won't create any fear in the opposition. Even if they do reach the quarter-finals, they certainly won't make it to the semis,” Lara said.

Ireland would fancy their chances against Pakistan, the West Indian great went on to say.

The Irish team had knocked Pakistan out from the 2007 World Cup held in the Caribbean.

CHRISTCHURCH: Pakistan's World Cup campaign needed improvement across the board, captain Misbah-ul-Haq declared Saturday after a humiliating 150-run loss to the West Indies.

The rout at Christchurch's Hagley Oval was compounded by a batting display that set a record for the worst start to a one-day international innings, with Pakistan's first four wickets falling for just one run.

Pakistan now languish at the bottom of Pool B with two losses from two outings, their performance against the West Indies a step backwards from the 76-run loss to arch-rivals and defending champions India in their tournament opener.

“It's a do or die situation for us and there are no ifs and buts,” Misbah said as he tried to look ahead to Pakistan's next game against Zimbabwe, while sifting through the wreckage of Saturday's crushing loss.

"We just lost in all three departments," Misbah admitted. "We couldn't bowl well, a lot of dropped catches, and the batting totally flopped."

After electing to bowl first, Pakistan took two early wickets, including the out-of-form Chris Gayle, and were still in a relatively strong position when the West Indies were 194 for four going into the final 10 overs.

But they could not contain a late onslaught from Andre Russell, who hit an unbeaten 42 off 17 balls, and Lendl Simmons with 50 off 46 as the West Indies reached 310 for six.

Pakistan, who won the World Cup the last time the tournament was staged in Australia and New Zealand in 1992, immediately collapsed in their run chase. After the first four wickets fell quickly, they were five for 25 after 10 overs and eventually all out for 160 in exactly 39 overs.

"We need to pick up ourselves up and come hard in the next game because now we're at the edge," Misbah said. "We have to forget the last two matches and learn from our mistakes. We can only win if we perform."

Misbah said Pakistan's problems against the West Indies began from the moment he won the toss and opted to use bowler-friendly conditions, with overcast skies and a hint of moisture on the pitch.

"But we couldn't take enough wickets up front. We only took one or two. We could have done better than that," Misbah added.

There were also difficulties in getting the batting-bowling balance right, with proven match-winner Saeed Ajmal pulling out of the squad because of his disputed spin-bowling action.

"The batting is already not scoring much. To go with six batters and five proper bowlers, that really is a tricky situation for us," the skipper added. "That's why we are going with seven batters but at the moment nothing is working."

"At the end of the day as a bowler, as a fielder, as a batsman, you have to go out there in the middle and perform. That's what we are not doing at the moment. There is no blame game. As a team, as players, we need to pick ourselves up and we need to perform, that's the only way," Misbah said.

KUWAIT: The Kuwait International Table Tennis Tournament ‘Salwa Cup’ concluded Sunday night under the patronage of HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah at the Late Khalid Yousuf Al-Marzouq hall in Salwa Sports Club in Qurain.

Representative of HH the Amir, Information Minister, State Minister for Youth Affairs Sheikh Salman Sabah Al- Salem Al-Humoud Al-Sabah attended the closing ceremony along with President of the Olympic Committee Sheikh Talal Al-Fahad, Chairman of the Higher Organizing Committee Sheikh Duaij Fahad Al-Duaij, Sheikha Naeema Al-Ahmad and a large crowd. Sheikh Salman said he is honored to represent the Amir in this dear tournament and expressed pleasure at the international interest to participate in it especially the top ranked players and thanked all those involved in its success. Meanwhile Sheikh Talal Al-Fahad said said the Salwa tournament began with an idea and reached this stage with a major international presence.

He thanked HH the Amir for supporting sports, representative of HH the Amir Sheikh Salman Al-Humoud, Salwa Sports Club Board of Directors, Table Tennis Federation and children of Late Sheikha Salwa. Sheikh Duaij Al-Sabah said the past years made the tournament the first in the world as Kuwait succeeded in attracting the best stars of the game in the world under one roof to compete for the prizes of a dear tournament to us.

As expected the Chinese players swept the singles and doubles events where the men’s singles was won by Malong who is number one in the world, while the Taipei team won the doubles which was a surprise. First place in the women’s singles went to Ding Ning while the doubles went to Ding Ning and Xhuo Yu Ling beating the German team. A traditional dance of Arda was performed, then representative of HH the Amir Sheikh Salman Al-Humoud along with Sheikha Naeema Al-Ahmad distributed the winners prizes.

NELSON: Ireland caused the first upset of the World Cup when an audacious 92 by Paul Stirling paved the way for a four-wicket win over the West Indies at Nelson's Saxton Oval on Monday.

Stirling stood in a match-defining 106-run stand with Ed Joyce for the second wicket as Ireland chased down a 305-run target with 25 balls to spare.

Stirling cracked his 92 off 84 balls, Joyce scored 84 off 67 and Niall O'Brien chimed in with an unbeaten 79 off 60 deliveries as they cashed in on wayward West Indies bowling.

It was Ireland's first win over the West Indies in six official matches and the first victory at this World Cup achieved by a team batting second.

The 12th-ranked Irish paid scant regard to the high-profile West Indians and enhanced their own reputation as giant-killers after beating other top-tier nations England and Pakistan in the previous two World Cups.

The victorious finish was a fitting reward for their spirited start to the match when they opted to bowl and rapidly reduced the West Indies to 87-5.

Chris Gayle again failed to fire as spinner George Dockrell carved through the upper order before a dashing century by Lendl Simmons and a personal-best 89 from Darren Sammy put some backbone into the West Indies innings.

Their power batting lifted the West Indies to what should have been a respectable 304 but they lacked the discipline in their bowling to defend the total.

Captain Jason Holder opened with a first ball that raced wide of slips to the boundary to give Ireland an immediate five runs from extras which started Stirling and William Porterfield on their way to a 71-run first wicket stand. With Porterfield's dismissal for 23, the left-handed Joyce joined right-hander Stirling to continue piling on the pressure.

Stirling's dismissal, caught behind off a Marlon Samuels delivery, saw O'Brien arrive to up the tempo further with the textbook formula of looking for an early boundary each over and accumulating what runs were on offer afterwards.

The West Indies were powerless to contain the onslaught, going through eight bowlers, as the Irish batsmen clobbered six sixes and 34 fours.

Joyce, on 42, was dropped by Darren Bravo when he belted Holder towards the boundary, and O'Brien was on 38 when he skied a Jerome Taylor delivery and Holder dropped what should have been a regulation catch. Taylor was the most successful West Indies bowler with three for 71.

Ireland started the day in the best possible fashion, winning the toss and ripping out the West Indies premier batsmen.

Dockrell, who finished with three for 50, claimed the prized wickets of Gayle (36), Samuels (21) and Ramdin (one) in the space of just eight deliveries.

It was another disappointment for Gayle who has not passed 50 since playing Bangladesh in August and the last of his 21 centuries was against Sri Lanka in June 2013.

Simmons and Sammy gave the innings respectability with a West Indies sixth-wicket record stand of 154 Simmons — whose uncle Phil, the former West Indies batsman, is Ireland's coach — was eventually dismissed in the last over for 104, his second one-day international century.

ADELAIDE: If Pakistan were looking for answers for its wretched losing streak against arch-rivals India in the World Cup, they need to cut to the chase and begin with the captain's luck with the toss.

When Misbah-ul Haq called incorrectly before Sunday's 76-run defeat at the Adelaide Oval, it was the fifth time in six World Cup outings that Pakistan had lost the toss to India.

In all those five games, Pakistan failed to chase down the target. The only time India batted second, at the Centurion in 2003, the genius of Sachin Tendulkar took the game away from Pakistan.

Former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul Haq is convinced India's luck with the toss has played a major role in its 6-0 scoreline against the old foes in the sport's premier 50-over showpiece.

“I believe batting first is always an advantage as batsmen tend to get under pressure while chasing in big games,” Inzamam wrote in a guest column for the tournament's official website.

“I can't find a suitable word to describe what goes wrong when we chase against India, but it's more like a mental blockage of players.

On Sunday, after Virat Kohli's 107 had set up a 301-run target, Pakistan folded up for 224 with only skipper Misbah contributing a valiant 76 off 84 balls.

In previous World Cup games against India, Pakistan failed to chase down totals of 216 in Sydney (1992), 287 in Bangalore (1996), 227 in Manchester (1999) and 260 in Mohali four years ago.

India's latest win came without the reassuring presence of retired batting superstar Tendulkar, who had proved a stumbling block for Pakistan in at least four of the five previous encounters.

In 2003, Tendulkar tamed a star-studded pace battery of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar to fashion India's six-wicket win with a scintillating 98 off 75 balls after Pakistan had piled up 273-7.

Misbah was at a loss to explain another failure on Sunday.

“I don't know what happened,” he said.

“But it is important to forget this loss and look to the future. The game is gone now, so we have to just concentrate on the next one.”

Six straight losses will hurt more because Pakistan enjoy a superior overall one-day record over India, having won 72 games and lost 51.

Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had some comforting words for Pakistan, saying the unbeaten run would not stay for ever.

“This World Cup record is good and we are proud of it,” he said.

“But a time will come when we will lose to them. This record won't stay for the rest of our lives. “That opportunity could come in the ongoing tournament itself if the two sides clash again in the semi-finals or the final.

In 1992 when the World Cup was held Down Under, Pakistan recovered from a 43-run loss to India in the league to win the tournament under Imran Khan.

Pakistan need to win at least three of their remaining five matches against South Africa, the West Indies, Ireland, the United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe to confirm a quarter-final placing.

Former batting great Javed Miandad, the only other player besides Tendulkar to play in six World Cups, reminded the current squad that all was not lost yet.

“In a way it is good that Pakistan has got an early jitter,” said Miandad.

“Pressure should be now off from their shoulders and they should concentrate on the remaining five group matches.”

As Pakistan prepares to face arch-rivals India for the sixth-time World Cup encounter on February 15, star all-rounder Shahid Afridi hoped that the Greenshirts would put an end to their losing trail.

“The team is not disheartened by their poor record against India in the World Cup,” Afridi was reported as saying.

“There is always a first time. I know it is a crunch game and fans from all over the world are coming to see it.

“We have the confidence and the ability to surprise any team on any given day. But, both the teams know how to handle pressure. On our part, we plan to treat it as just another game,” said Afridi.

The 34-year-old all-rounder believed that both teams would be desperate to kick off their World Cup campaign with a win and “take the momentum and confidence to the rest of the tournament”.

Afridi also expressed hope for India and Pakistan to play each other other than the World Cup.

The all-rounder is closing in on a unique double of 8,000 runs and 400 ODI wickets and seemed confident to lead the spin department in the absence of seasoned Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez.

Shahid Afridi has already announced his retirement from ODIs after the World Cup and wanted to end his career on a high note. “We want to emulate the efforts of the 1992 World Cup winning team,” he said.

The flamboyant Afridi agreed that repeating the 1992 World Cup heroics was not an easy task as most players are plagued with injuries.

“The 1992 team was a combination of seniors and youngsters. This team has got some talented youngsters as well and we're expecting a lot from them,” Afridi said.


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