Australia arrives at its own party
Looks like Australia's cricket fans paid attention to Michael Clarke.
The fears of a 70-30 split in favour of an Indian audience had led the Australian captain to send out a tweet to the home audience: ""I call on all Australian cricket lovers to paint the SCG gold. We need your support. #goldout." Steven Smith, next in line to be Australia's captain, chipped in, "let's fill the place with gold."
Two hours before the game, the only spectators milling around the ground who could be seen - and of course heard - were Indians in their blue T-shirts. Two Australians dressed in team colours replied to greetings from volunteers with a laugh, "we're the only two going to be in there."
Not really. The crowd split was close to 50-50 between Indian fans and Australian fans. At best it could have been 55-45 India-Australia.
The main point of distinction was the fact that almost every Indian fan was wearing blue and in the battle of the flags, the tricolor was winning. As the match ran its course, though, the sound of fans on both sides began to make itself heard. Matching the Indian fans cheering every fielding stop or well crafted over was the steady drumbeat of applause at every Australian four. India's "jeetega bhai jeetega" (we will win, brother, we will win) was met by "Cmon, Aussie, cmon".
The fears of a mysterious detachment of Australian fans from a World Cup they were themselves hosting arose when the quarter-final between Australia and Pakistan pulled in 35,516 but left many visible empty seats in the 50,000-capacity ground. When a news report two days before the SCG quarter final quoted organisers as saying 70% of the stands would be filled by Indian fans who had snatched up the tickets, the dread would have passed onto Australia's cricket establishment.
This sudden, ominous lack of Australian interest could have arisen from two quarters: the advent of the footy/rugby season was well under way, the summertime for paying attention to cricket had passed. Then there was the matter of an Australian trait - of paying attention to any major sporting events only a week or so before the main event. Several Indian generations brought up on the dreaded fear of 'waiting lists' - whether for telephone connections and flights in the past or train journeys and new models of cars even today - make a beeline for tickets they care about the instant they are available. In this case, the moment the quarter-final line-up became known, those Indians who wanted to turn up made all their bookings.
The Australian team need not have feared, their fans came. In healthy, raucous and supportive numbers. Without as many flags or team jerseys as the Indian fans, but they were there. As Mitchell Johnson cleaned out 49 off the last four overs, the Australian cheering grew louder, and the Indians spent the evening listening to music and dancing instead.
MS Dhoni raised the pulse of the Indian fans briefly, hitting two consecutive sixes off Watson, but once he was run out by one of two dead-eye direct hits, their energy leached out. In the blink of an eye, they began leaving the ground, and by time the Australians cleaned up the last three wickets, all that was left to be seen were healthy clusters of yellow shirts and green chairs.
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo