ADELAIDE: Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq believes India will start as favourites in Thursday’s World Cup semi-final against Australia because of spin-friendly conditions at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Misbah, whose side lost to Australia by six wickets in a quarter-final at the Adelaide Oval on Friday, said the tournament co-hosts will rue being without a quality spinner in their last four clash.
“Playing in Sydney they will miss a good spinner,” said the 40-year-old Misbah, whose one-day international career ended after Friday’s defeat by Australia.
“That could be the difference, because spinners have had a lot of success in Sydney and Imran Tahir did well the other day. So that could be a problem for Australia.
“They might just be in trouble there, although it will be a tough game because both sides are playing good cricket.”
Leg-spinner Tahir collected four for 26 and fellow slow bowler JP Duminy took three for 29, including a hat-trick, as South Africa bowled out Sri Lanka for just 133 to win Wednesday’s quarter-final at the SCG by nine wickets.
But the bat dominated the ball in previous World Cup games at the venue, with Australia piling up 376 for nine against Sri Lanka and South Africa smashing 408 for five off the West Indies’ attack.
Defending champions India have been on a roll with seven straight wins, defying the form book after going through a winless Test and ODI tour of Australia prior to the tournament.
Australia captain Michael Clarke conceded playing India in a semi-final would be a challenge, but disagreed with Misbah that spin would be the crucial factor at the SCG.
“I don’t think a ball spun in our game against Sri Lanka,” Clarke said. “It will all depend on what type of wicket gets prepared. If there is a bit of grass on it, that will certainly help our fast bowlers.
“If it does spin, we’ve got spinning options in our squad, so I’m sure the selectors will assess that once we get to the SCG and work out what they think is the best 11,” the Sydney native added.
Clarke said Australia had the option of picking left-armer Xavier Doherty to bowl in tandem with Glenn Maxwell if conditions favoured spin — with the captain himself and Steven Smith ready to chip in.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has relied on off-break bowler Ravichandran Ashwin, who has 12 wickets in the tournament, as his spin spearhead with Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina and even Rohit Sharma providing back-up.
Australia have won eight of their last nine completed one-day internationals at the SCG, but Clarke was wary of a rejuvenated India team .
“India are a completely different opposition to Pakistan,” he said. “They have different strengths and different weaknesses as well.
“They are obviously playing a lot better than they were throughout the start of the (Australian) summer. I said leading into the World Cup that I thought India were going to be an extremely tough team to beat.
“They are a very good team and because they have spent so much time in Australia, they know the conditions quite well. The game on Thursday is going to certainly be a challenge.
“We definitely have to be at our best to beat them. We look forward to that challenge.
Our attitude will be exactly the same as it was leading up to the knockout rounds.
“Thursday becomes our World Cup final. We look forward to it.” -AFP