March 14, 2015

Defending champion India made a mockery of the pre-tournament form guides, finishing unbeaten atop Pool B at the Cricket World Cup with a six-wicket win over Zimbabwe on Saturday.

India hadn't won a competitive match on Australian soil in the two months leading up to the tournament, but has now won six in a row to extend its winning streak in World Cup matches to 10 - including the latter half of its run to the title in 2011.

The win over lowly-ranked Zimbabwe in Auckland, New Zealand wasn't as simple as the result suggested, though, with India needing an exceptional innings of 110 from Suresh Raina and 85 from Mahendra Singh Dhoni in an unbroken 196-run partnership to edge to victory with eight balls remaining.

Four-time champion Australia beat winless Scotland by seven wickets in a rain-affected match in Hobart, Australia, chasing down Scotland's paltry total of 130 with 208 balls to spare.

In Auckland, Brendan Taylor quit the international stage after 11 years with a flamboyant 138 to lift Zimbabwe to 287, a total which made life difficult for India.

''We felt a bit of pressure. Zimbabwe is a good side, but we were expected to win,'' Dhoni said. ''Everyone has been put under pressure, whether the three fast bowlers or the spinners, or the top order in a few games.

''This is the difference between playing here and a bilateral series.''

Zimbabwe finished with just one win in six matches, but Taylor said there were close results that could have gone either way.

''We played some brilliant cricket, and have been shoddy at times,'' he said. India ''proved why they are the top of the group. It is nice to get a few runs, but it is sad to have ended. It has been a joyful ride.''

The Australians had a mixed run through the tournament before securing second place in Pool A behind unbeaten New Zealand.

New Zealand will play the fourth-place team in Pool B and Australia will play the third-place team in Pool B in the quarterfinals. Those places will be determined Sunday when Pakistan plays Ireland in Adelaide and West Indies plays United Arab Emirates in Napier, New Zealand. India leads the group with 12 points, followed by South Africa on eight, Pakistan and Ireland on six and West Indies on four.

India will play Bangladesh in the quarterfinals, and could meet Australia in the semifinals.

Australia opened the tournament with a 111-run win over England, then had to split the points with Bangladesh due to a washout in Brisbane, before a one-wicket loss to New Zealand after being skittled for 151. Michael Clarke's team rebounded with emphatic wins over Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Scotland.

Australian paceman Mitchell Starc moved to the top of the bowling list with a haul of 4-14 as Scotland was bowled out for 130 in 25.4 overs, finishing with 16 wickets in the group stage.

Australia reached 133-3 in 15.2 overs, with David Warner coming out firing after a rain delay to finish unbeaten on 21 from six balls.

Skipper Michael Clarke was elevated up the order to open with Aaron Finch (20) and was out for 47 just before the interval break and rain delay of an hour. Shane Watson scored 24, batting at No. 3.

''Fortunately we got enough time,'' Clarke said. ''I don't think there's any better preparation for a quarterfinal. We had one little hiccup against New Zealand, but the boys are excited and looking forward to the quarterfinals.''

Scotland has played three World Cups, and never won a game. It was a tall order playing Australia on home soil in its last game.

''We wanted to stand up to the challenge. We take a huge amount of positives from the past six games,'' Scotland captain Preston Mommsen said. ''The more we've played, the better we've gotten. We leave the World Cup a much stronger team.''

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