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August 30, 2008
Michael Hussey and Shaun Marsh proved that even an under-strength and comparatively under-prepared Australia are a major handful for Bangladesh, who crumbled to their lowest ODI score and a 180-run loss. Before the game Jamie Siddons, the Bangladesh coach, said a rusty Australia would still be very good and after they posted a challenging 254, Mitchell Johnson and Brett Geeves troubled the top order to set up the one-sided result.
The build-up to the match was remarkably similar to the memorable 2005 contest in Cardiff when Andrew Symonds turned up to the ground under the influence of alcohol, was left out of the match, and Bangladesh scored a five-wicket win. This time Symonds was scratched because he had missed a team meeting due to a fishing trip on Friday, but his colleagues had no intention of letting the incident affect the outcome.
Marsh and Hussey registered cautious half-centuries that stopped Bangladesh's bowlers gaining any momentum, although the attack was commendably tight at times. But even without Australia's strike bowler Brett Lee, the home team was far too strong in the field and Johnson's speed was a handful.
He picked up their most dangerous striker, Tamim Iqbal, who had struck a couple of boundaries from the slower Nathan Bracken. When he tried to slash Johnson over third man, the debutant Geeves ran around and took an awkward-looking but well-judged catch. Tamim had made 21 and tellingly for Bangladesh, the 16-run stand he had just shared with his captain Mohammad Ashraful was the largest of the innings.
Johnson also picked up Ashraful, who tried a lavish pull to a delivery that stayed a touch low and struck him dead in front. Michael Clarke and Stuart Clark chipped in with wickets and by the time Geeves was handed the ball for the first time four batsmen were already gone.
He bowled with impressive speed and had little trouble capturing a couple of victims to boost his confidence. The Bangladesh lower order fizzled without a whimper and handed Cameron White three easy wickets, highlighting just how valuable the concentration of Marsh and Hussey had been on a hot and sunny Darwin day.
The pair combined for a grinding 85-run third-wicket partnership that masked a hint of under-preparation from the top order, which had been given only one warm-up game to get used to the conditions. Marsh and Hussey managed only three boundaries during their stand, hardly the "100 miles an hour from ball one" that the captain Clarke promised.
But their efforts were appreciated by a team that had been reduced to 11 available men before play began. As well as losing Symonds, they were also without Shane Watson, who was rested as a precaution as he suffered soreness in his lower left leg - he had also nursed a broken toe on his left foot through the West Indies tour.
The top-order reshuffle gave James Hopes a chance to open, but when he and Clarke both departed relatively cheaply and without dominating Bangladesh's bowlers - their self-proclaimed weakness - it was left to Hussey and Marsh to rebuild. They relied heavily on Marsh in the early stages and he continued to prove himself a player for the future with an assured 76 that included few risks.
In his first one-day international in Australia, he played calmly and turned over the strike with ease, if not exactly hurting the bowlers. Bangladesh struggled to plug the holes in the field and easy ones and twos were available throughout the innings but their spinners proved difficult to attack. Only with the loss of Marsh, who inside-edge onto his stumps to Abdur Razzak, did Australia threaten to lift the tempo. Eventually it was a late assault from Hussey that got Australia up to a total that left his captain Clarke "rapt".
Hussey was out from the last ball for 85 - one of three wickets to Shahadat Hossain in the 50th over - as Australia piled on 49 in the final five. His late strikes, including a powerful six over long-off, brought the loudest cheers from a laid-back Darwin crowd, full of deck chairs and with barely a pair of long trousers in sight.
They gradually filtered in after the early start time of 9.30am. By 4pm, they were heading home. As patriotic as the local fans were, they will be hoping for a more even contest in the second match on Wednesday.
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