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    Defending champions reignite burned out fire! Australia's road to 2019 World Cup semi-finals

    Exactly a year ago from, Australia was enduring one of the worst spells they had ever encountered. A ball tampering controversy that shook the world by storm. A change in management and leadership over the months saw the Aussies in a despondent and discouraged state. Losing series after series, Australia's fire had burned out. 2018 was a realistic nightmare they were living in.   2019, after India's bilateral series win Down Under, the Aussies build their empire cautiously, slowly, heedfully. Few months fast forward, Australia defeated India and Pakistan in their own yards. As slow fire was reignited and the warning bells had been rung before the World Cup.   Steve Smith and David Warner returned to side, hungier than ever, where the latter has been on a collision course, hammering three centuries so far in the World Cup and the Aussies, are in the World Cup semi-finals. The defending champions are gunning for what they feel is rightfully theirs and are on course to retaining their title.   Here is Australia's road to the 2019 World Cup semi-finals   Afghanistan vs Australia   David Warner and Steve Smith returned from their international cricket exiles to help steer Australia to a seven-wicket win over Afghanistan in the opening game of its World Cup title defense.   Warner posted an unbeaten 89 as the Aussies surpassed Afghanistan's 207 with 15 overs to spare. Smith was out for 18 just three runs short of victory. Glenn Maxwell hit the next ball to the boundary to lift Australia to 209/3.   Australia vs West Indies   Mitchell Starc grabbed five wickets for 46 runs in a brilliant show of fast bowling as defending champions Australia pulled off a 15-run win against West Indies in a tense World Cup match to notch up their second win on Thursday.   Sent into bat, Nathan Coulter-Nile (92 from 60 balls) played a blinder of an innings, taking cue from a dogged fight back by Steve Smith (73 from 103 balls), as Australia recovered from 38 for 4 to post a competitive 288 all out in 49 overs.   Chasing 289 for a win, the West Indies were in the hunt for the most part of their innings but they crumbled towards the end to score 273 for 9 from 50 overs.   India vs Australia   Shikhar Dhawan's classy hundred and a quality bowling effort powered India to a 36-run victory over Australia, denying two fallen heroes a fairytale script while sounding a warning bell for their opponents in the World Cup on Sunday.   The legend of Dhawan in ICC tournaments continued to grow as his stylish 117 formed the cornerstone of a fantastic batting display that propelled India to a commanding 352 for five.   In reply, Australia never looked like getting there as they managed only 316 in 50 overs with Steve Smith (69 off 70 balls) and David Warner's (56 off 84 balls) half-centuries being of little consequence.   Australia vs Pakistan   David Warner was not at his usual destructive self but effective nevertheless, his first international century since completing the ball-tampering ban setting up Australia's 41-run win over Pakistan in the World Cup game at Taunton.   Australia looked set for a total in excess of 350 while Warner and captain Aaron Finch (82) were at the crease, but Mohammad Amir (5/30) staged a grand comeback with his best ODI bowling figures to bowl their opponents out for 307.   Pakistan's innings ended at 266 in 45.4 overs but not before the duo of Sarfaraz Ahmed and Wahab Riaz gave the Australians a scare with a rear guard action that revived their hopes for a while.   Sri Lanka vs Australia   Australia moved to the top of the World Cup standings at the time after handing Sri Lanka an 87-run loss at the Oval.  Captain Aaron Finch lost the toss again and was made to bat first, but he spearheaded Australia's effort with a career-best 153 in a total of 334/7. While the skipper led from the front, Steve Smith pitched in with a gritty 73, while during the chase, Mitchell Starc and Kane Richardson claimed 7 wickets amongst themselves to bundle out Sri Lanka for 247.   Counterpart Dimuth Karunaratne tried to inspire his side the same way, but after he was out for a career-best 97 in the 33rd over, Sri Lanka collapsed. From 186/2 to 247 all out, the last eight wickets fell for 61 runs.   Australia vs Bangladesh   Australia moved closer to World Cup semifinals after David Warner inspired the defending champions to a comfortable 48-run win over a combative Bangladesh with his second century of the tournament.   The left-handed opener contained his natural aggressive self before swinging his arms freely to build a 166-run knock, which steered Australia to a mammoth 381 for five, their second highest score in World Cup.   Warner, who had hit a hundred against Pakistan as well, added 121 runs with his skipper Aaron Finch (53) in a risk-free opening partnership and then raised a 192-run stand with Usman Khawaja (89).   England vs Australia   It was reminiscent of the Australian swagger of yore as Aaron Finch's pacers bossed arch-rivals England on their way to the World Cup semifinals with a 64-run victory on Tuesday.   While Australia became the first team to reach the semifinals of the showpiece, England's defeat, their second straight following the stunning reverse to Sri Lanka, made their path to the last four way tougher than it was not less than a week ago.   Captain Finch rose to the occasion with his second century of the tournament before England rallied to stop Australia at 285 for seven in their blockbuster showdown.   New Zealand vs Australia   Australia strangled New Zealand in winning their group game against their neighbours by 86 runs at Lord's, with once again Mitchell Star shining with the ball by claiming a fifer in Match 37 of the ongoing World Cup at Lord's.   After rejecting a chance to rest front-liners and promising to keep its foot on the pedal, the Australians squeezed out a fifth straight win defending a total since its only loss of the tournament to India.   Left-arm paceman Starc took tournament-best figures of 5/26, his second 5-wicket haul of the event. Starc has 24 wickets, two more than he earned in the 2015 World Cup, with at least two more matches to play.   Australia vs South Africa   A clash which went right to the wire and a result which was not expected, South Africa have caused a major upset as the Proteas beat Australia by a narrow 10 runs on Saturday in the final league clash of the 2019 World Cup in Manchester, which saw Australia drop their NRR, slip to the second place on the points table and will face hosts, England in the second semi-final clash. India will take on New Zealand in the first semi-final on July 9.   Faf du Plessis' 93-ball 100 underpinned South Africa's 325/6 in Manchester, and two pieces of magic from wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock — a cheeky run-out and a leaping, one-handed catch — left the Australians struggling on 119/4, with batsman Usman Khawaja also retired hurt. (Match Scorecard)   David Warner (122) and Alex Carey (85 off 69 balls) put on 108 for the fifth wicket, but neither could see Australia home as shadows lengthened on the field in the day-nighter at Old Trafford.

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