Australia v India, World Cup 2015, 2nd semi-final, Sydney March 26, 2015

Auckland 'turning point' for Australia - Clarke

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Momentum will hold us in good stead - Clarke

Australia's captain Michael Clarke has pinpointed the narrow defeat to New Zealand in Auckland as the "kick up the backside," his team needed as they prepare to rejoin battle with their Trans-Tasman rivals in the World Cup final at the MCG on Sunday

Australia were set back considerably by a rush of wickets at the hands of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Daniel Vettori at Eden Park, and Clarke said the difficult hours during and after that loss were the germination of a sense of purpose and direction that has carried the team through to the final with knockout victories over Pakistan and India.

These hard-fought results also followed a reshuffle of the team. Steven Smith was moved up to No. 3, where he again played a spinal innings against India, while Mitchell Johnson was moved back to first-change bowler, a perch from which he claimed the wickets of India's aces Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma to all but seal his side's progress. Clarke said all this had begun in Auckland.

"I think New Zealand will take confidence that they've beaten us in the tournament, but I believe that was the turning point in this tournament for the Australian team," Clarke said. "I think that gave us a bit of a kick up the backside. We knew we got a good look at a very good team playing at the top of their game, certainly with the ball, and I think our attitude from that day has been exceptional.

"I think we've trained really well, we're prepared so well for every game. The boys have got out of bed every single day to try and become better, and I think you've seen that in our results, so I think we've been building - we've grabbed momentum and we've tried to run with it and we've been improving every single game, and I think that'll hold us in really good stead for Sunday."

Australia had only one very minor injury concern from the India victory - Josh Hazlewood spent the closing minutes of the match off the fied with a bruised thumb. However, they do have the drawback of only two days' gap between semi and final, a schedule more common in the customary fog of bilateral series rather than the rarified air of a World Cup.

"We haven't got much time, and recovery will be our goal and our focus over the next two days," Clarke said. "We'll have training on Saturday, but I think that'll be selected players and optional. I don't think our bowlers will do too much. Smithy probably doesn't need to hit too many balls, although he probably will. But yeah, recovery is what's important now.

"We fly now, I think our flight is in the morning, so blokes will recover tonight, blokes will recover when we land in Melbourne. I think physical recovery is the most important thing for us right now. I think mentally the team is ready for this final. If the game was today or the game was tomorrow, I think we're ready mentally.

"We've been building up throughout this tournament to get this opportunity to play a World Cup final. I'm not concerned there. It's just making sure the guys can recover as well as we can from this tough game."

Beyond a tight two days, Clarke was now prepared to contemplate the thought of winning the tournament. It is a prospect the Australians have been trying to embrace, while also not allowing it to envelop them. Now, so close to the summit, Clarke acknowledged the pressure he and his men have been under.

"It would be extremely special, there's no doubt about it," he said. "It's the pinnacle of one-day cricket. I think at the start of the tournament there was a lot of expectation and pressure put onto this team, the fact we were playing in our own backyard. So yeah, I think it would be the icing on the cake for the summer that the Australian cricket teams that had in both Test and one-day cricket.

"But I still think we're - yeah, 100 overs is a long time in this game. I just think we've got some work to do over the next couple of days to make sure we're as well prepared as we can be, and if our attitude doesn't change and we stay as focused as we've been since that loss against New Zealand, I'm confident we can win this World Cup."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sri on March 28, 2015, 2:57 GMT

    How crucial is the toss here. If Aus wins the toss it could be one sided game. OTOH if they win by chasing anything over 290-300 comfortably i would say they are the real winners. @ OUTSIDE-OFF No i don't deny that either. Aus is particularly strong in their lower order department than India , SA (or even NZ) Except Hazelwood all the bowlers can actually bat in your team. With the bat the real threatening ones are Smith(how opp teams ignore him?) Warner, Faulkner, Maxwell (then comes the Clarke, Watson, Haddin). With the ball Starc is the key . Jhonson will also play a role with his bouncers in this big MCG. Watson seems to be only week link here. Clarke also looks like he doesn't belong in this format(not sure he is better than Bailey). Overall a balanced team and better than the rest.

  • G on March 27, 2015, 16:52 GMT

    For all Clarke has to say, this is a Coach's team. And the Coach isn't one to play by the book. The Coach belonged to the era when playing NZ often meant beating them. The Coach when he was a player, wasn't know for his restraint or tolerance. Coach will hate to lose the final - especially to NZ. That will play to NZ's advantage.

  • S on March 27, 2015, 16:20 GMT

    This is where the Kiwi dream ends as they wake to the harsh realities of playing cricket away from the comfort of their homes. I can see a complete dismantling of the Kiwis by the Aussies.

  • Garry on March 27, 2015, 14:48 GMT

    Marcio and the lost to us, they only play about 4 different teams, last time they played us before we beat them was about 5 years ago, same as SL. When was the last time Aussie played a test and ODI series in Bangladesh for example?

  • Marcio on March 27, 2015, 13:26 GMT

    And not a thing wrong with anything Clarke says here. In fact, it's all great. I'm afraid there are a certain number of Kiwis that - like the great Aussie band Split Enz - see red whenever an Aussie opens his mouth. I lived there for several years, pushing up the IQ average just a fraction, before returning to the real world.

    Yeah, before you rip off an angry post, I know the Finn brothers are Kiwis. But we invented the Pavlova (cake). This is indisputable.

  • Izmi on March 27, 2015, 13:20 GMT

    The loss to New Zealand in the preliminary stages of the world cup in Auckland no doubt sent shock waves through the aussie camp and gave a wake up call to lift their game to remain in the competition untill the finals. Their preparation for the game was derailed somewhat with the match against Bangladesh being abandoned without a ball being bowled due to inclement weather and they were unable to map out their strategy for the match against the Black Caps. Though they lost the match after being bowled out for 133 runs it was a nail biting finish before New Zealand won the game by just 1 wicket. They have a good opportunity to put that defeat to rest by clinching victory in the finals at the MCG. The wicket at the MCG could be quite different in nature to Auckland or for that matter anywhere in NZ. Like India the Black Caps unbeaten record could be tarnished by the aussies who are tipped to win their 5th world cup title in 11 appearances since it's inception in 1975.

  • Marcio on March 27, 2015, 13:11 GMT

    Stevie, while I know you want to start counting from the precise moment that would most benefit NZ's ranking, that's not how it works. Australia have lost only two of their last 16 or 17 ODIs over the past four or five months, and they were doing pretty well before that, too. They are fair dinkum number one! But if NZ win on the weekend, they deserve the WC title. Simple. And what would you prefer, the number one ranking, or the World Cup? I'm pretty sure I know which one the players think is more important.

  • Pradeep Gowda on March 27, 2015, 10:36 GMT

    Australia will win it easily. it's very difficult for kiwis to beat Australia in mcg.

  • ESPN on March 27, 2015, 9:53 GMT

    Aus are clearly favourites but i wud luv to see baz holding wc for they have been playing good cricket in the recent times.gud luck kiwis

  • pramathesh on March 27, 2015, 9:42 GMT

    India never deserved to enter the finals of WC held in Aus pitches. Aus-NZ in final reminds me of the underarm delivery master Trev Chappell & his brother captain Greg. I am sure fans from Aus & more from NZ will be rethinking of that 1981 underarm delivery incident. If underarm delivery can stop runs then y not relegalize it in odis where bowlers r hit for lot of runs. Would like to c Greg, Trev & Lillee at the final in the stands. Lillee-the aluminium bat master had not taken his field position before that delivery was to be fired implying that it was a no-ball. Who will play the role of Greg, Trev and Lillee from the current Aus team this time? Aus can go to any extent to win a final. Will be bored of WC if Aus win it again -would hope to c a winner who will win WC for 1st time. Aus r smartest in understanding the cricket rules & know how to use/misuse them better than other teams-thats y they r now in the game for 5th WC title.

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