Australia: From World Cup hosts to World Cup favouriteshttps://indianexpress.com/article/sports/cricket/hosts-to-favourites/

Australia: From World Cup hosts to World Cup favourites

Australia now go into World Cup with the burden of winning, thanks to their strong show in tri-series.

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For the final against England, Australia will welcome back their one-man demolition army — Mitchell Johnson.

If you want to see a real team, come back here on Sunday…” It was a holler from a semi-clothed man and screamed out from the passenger seat of a moving car right outside the WACA on Hay Street. It was still just 7 pm here. But it was Friday night. And the Perth local looked to have already reached a stage of inebriation that could earn him the tag of cot-case, the term Strines’ use to call their drunks.

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You couldn’t blame him though. Nor disagree with him. For, if anything, he was only echoing the sentiments of an entire nation.

The Australian team doesn’t indulge in singing Under the Southern Cross after winning ODIs. That ritual is reserved for Test victories. But the way they’ve played in the tri-series so far, they’ve made everyone who’ve watched them do so to go “Australiaaa you f*&*%ng beauty..”

They’ve steamrolled India and England en route to making Sunday’s final at the WACA, winning with bonus points on one occasion and making a mockery of a 300 plus run-chase another time. They’ve done so without always playing their best side, allowing a number of their World Cup squad members a valuable period of convalescence. And for the final they welcome back their one-man demolition army Mitchell Johnson. It will be a match where the four-time World Cup champions look to reinforce their tag as favourites for lifting the crown for a record fifth time.

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India’s tour started with their Test captain being hit on the logo on his helmet, and it ended with their ODI captain wearing one on the same spot. The man responsible for the first strike was Johnson, and he had done so on a placid Adelaide Oval wicket. Ironically, once the WACA pitch began playing tricks, the one name that was discussed the most was Johnson, even if he was on the other side of the city at that point.

If Chris Woakes and Mohit Sharma can generate such bounce off this wicket, who will want to front up to Johnson? Well England will have no choice but to face menacing Mitch on Sunday, as will every other team which is slated to face the World Cup co-hosts in the mega-event.

Flexing muscle
In fact, Johnson will align himself with a pace attack that has already flexed its muscle and showed off its brawn in the tournament. Then there’s their batting line-up — poised to attack, fashioned to thrill. You can expect any one of David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Steve Smith or George Bailey to take apart an opposition single-handedly. And then there’s James ‘Dr Death’ Faulkner waiting in the wings. On Saturday, even Michael Clarke scored a half-century in a grade game to announce his return to fitness.

But then favourites don’t always win World Cups. And then there’s the home team curse to be dealt with. Only India have ever managed to overcome it and last the distance in their own backyard. Australia know all too well about it. They had gone into the 1992 World Cup having beaten India comprehensively in a Test series and then lost only two out of 10 matches in a tri-series involving the West Indies. Then they finished up as the major flops in the first World Cup to be held Down Under despite possessing a squad that looked primed to be champions in these conditions.

The Socceroos might have set the happy precedent for them by overcoming a relentless South Korean outfit in the Asian Cup final in Sydney. For now anyway Bailey & Co look set to prove to the world that they are the ‘real deal’. And you don’t need a drunk screaming it out of a car to know about it.

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