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September 6, 2008
Tamim Iqbal's one-man entertainment show was not enough to turn Darwin into Cardiff as Australia wrapped up a 3-0 cleansweep with a 73-run victory over Bangladesh. Tamim mastered the slow surface better than anyone had all week. He showed more flair than Australia's key man Michael Hussey but only two of Tamim's colleagues reached double figures and three wickets to James Hopes led to a familiar result.
Bangladesh were chasing 199, which despite their batting woes on this tour looked like a vaguely feasible target. When Tamim lashed the likes of Hopes and Mitchell Johnson there were some nervous flutters from Michael Clarke, who was part of the team when Bangladesh upset Australia in Cardiff in 2005.
Several facets of Bangladesh's game came together on this occasion: Tamim was on fire, their spinners bowled terrifically tightly and their fielding was sharp. Again, the disappointment was the rest of their batting as several men threw their wickets away unnecessarily. It was all the more frustrating for Bangladesh this time because, the way Tamim was playing, they had a genuine chance.
He made their first half-century of the series and finished with 63, skying a catch off Shane Watson as he ran out of colleagues. He ended up with more than half of his team's 125 and the Man-of-the-Match award. Tamim was so enthusiastic that one attempted pull off Hopes finished with the bat flying halfway to the square-leg umpire after he failed to connect with the ball.
More often he did make powerful contact. A cracking drive for four over mid-on from Hopes was followed next ball by a cleanly-struck six to the same spot. But Hopes easily got through the defences of Mahmudullah and trapped Dhiman Ghosh lbw, having already removed Tamim's most important partner, Shakib Al Hasan.
Shakib had batted well for 27, although he was dropped at third man on 14. His luck ran out when he tried to pull Hopes but failed to connect properly and lobbed a catch to Michael Hussey at midwicket. It was the end of Bangladesh's best stand of the series and, as it turned out, the end of their chances. The pair had led a good recovery after the top order stumbled to 3 for 22.
Mohammad Ashraful fell to an awful piece of batting for the third time in the series. As the captain and arguably best batsman in a young side, his approach in the middle must be a major concern for the coaching staff. They had 50 overs to score 199. What they needed from this innings, as they have through the whole series, was patience and concentration. Instead Ashraful showed no application. He had 3 on the board when he drove Stuart Clark in the air with no real control and was taken by Michael Clarke at point.
Before wandering off the Marrara Cricket Ground, Ashraful stood for a moment and looked down the pitch, seemingly wondering what had gone wrong. He had not learned from his mistake from Clark's previous ball, when he drove in the air straight to cover, where Hopes spilled what he should have taken.
Just as bad was Alok Kapali's brain explosion as he tried to pull a Johnson ball that was nowhere near short enough and lost his off stump as a result. Clark had already accounted for Junaid Siddique with a nasty bouncer that was fended to first slip. Bangladesh really needed to take note of the way Hussey, the Player of the Series, had batted to nudge Australia to 5 for 198.
His painstaking unbeaten 57 ensured a competitive total despite the strong efforts of Bangladesh in the field. He struck a couple of boundaries towards the end but for most of the innings concentrated solely on batting out the overs, something Bangladesh failed to do in any of the three ODIs.
Scoring was tough for Australia. Eye of the Tiger blared over the PA system and it was a prescient choice as a sharp Bangladesh threw down the stumps several times. Such was Australia's trouble finding gaps, particularly against the spin of Shakib and Abdur Razzak, that they started taking suicidal singles.
Shane Watson (27) did not trust Clarke's call and his hesitation cost him when Mashrafe Mortaza and Ghosh combined to find him short. Clarke himself was stranded out of his ground when he bunted to the off side, hared for a run and watched as Kapali's throw shattered the stumps.
David Hussey fell in similar fashion when Ashraful at mid-off was accurate, although the one they needed to get was the one they missed. When Michael Hussey had 6 he scampered through for a run and was well short when the throw narrowly passed by. Bangladesh can only dream of what might have happened had the shy hit.
As it was they tied Australia up impressively. No boundaries came off the bat between the 14th and 42nd overs. By the close of Australia's innings, Bangladesh's confidence had lifted appreciably. If only their batsman had done the same.
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