Australia close in on victory despite Rafique
A match which Australia were expected to wrap inside three days hung in the balance after four, as Bangladesh fought back gallantly after being outplayed for most of the day. Chasing 307 for victory, Australia rode on a 109-run second-wicket partnership between Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting to cruise to 173 for 1, before the indefatigable Mohammad Rafique breathed Bangladesh back to life with two late wickets. Ponting, batting with great resolve for an unbeaten 72, kept the fight going for Australia as they finished on 212 for 4, still 95 away from victory.
For much of day, Australia were the rampant side: they allowed Bangladesh's last five wickets to add just 24 more, and then made huge strides towards their target. However, Rafique inspired Bangladesh to believe that the impossible was theirs with two key strikes in the dusk. For the second time running, he removed a clueless Damien Martyn with a gem of a delivery that pitched on middle and leg, turned, and knocked back off stump and then induced the faintest edges off Michael Clarke's bat that Khaled Mashud smartly snapped up.
The manner of his resurgence was simply brilliant after Ponting and Matthew Hayden had thwarted Bangladesh for an entire session. Australia needed a special effort and Hayden and Ponting raised their hands. Their shot selection, running between the wickets and ability to blunt the spinners were very impressive. Like Adam Gilchrist yesterday, both moved their feet wonderfully and a full face of the bat was presented every time the two defended or drove. Mashrafe Mortaza attacked Hayden's stumps after tea and rapped his pads on consecutive deliveries but that was the only real sign of aggression. Hayden soon moved to fifty with an easy single past square leg and Ponting walked back down the pitch to give him a firm handshake.
It was obvious that both batsmen were dead set on atonement for their first-innings lapse. Australia realised that they needed to get on top of the spinners and they did so by picking singles and pushing the fielders. Hayden advanced to Rafique and picked singles wide of mid-on and mid-off while Ponting was fluent on the legside and collected his runs through deft nudges and prods off the pads. A bludgeoning cut shot for four from Hayden broke the shackles of a quiet post-tea spell and the writing was on the wall when Mohammad Ashraful let one go through his legs the very next ball.
The side's senior-most duo had added 109 hard-earned runs but all came crashing down when Enamul Haque jnr produced a fine throw from mid-on to catch Hayden just short at the bowler's end. From there on, it was Rafique who had the final say.
For Bangladesh, the fast bowlers toiled hard - both Mortaza and Shahadat Hossain gained the slightest bit of reverse swing in the evening - but it was always going to be the spinners under the radar. Rafique was tight in his line but Hussey, Hayden and Ponting had gained much confidence since their last outing in the middle. He mixed in the quicker deliveries and forced the batsmen onto the back foot but also found out that when Hayden hits them they usually stay hit, as he craned his neck to see one go down the ground. Bowling with a high-arm action, Enamul was unafraid to toss the ball up and the wicket of Michael Hussey - bowled while going for an ambitious sweep in a 64-run opening stand - surely gave him more confidence. It was his amazing throw to send back the dangerous Hayden that had the greatest effect, however.
Any doubts over Australia's ability to bounce back were quelled in emphatic style first thing in the morning as Jason Gillespie knocked on the door and Shane Warne kicked it down. Four wickets fell for just one run as Bangladesh committed hara-kiri early in the morning to fold for just 148 and leave Australia 307 to win. A classic clean-up job by Gillespie, bowling from wide of the crease with the breeze blowing across and encouraging the inswing, sent Mashud's offstump flying a good ten yards behind him.
It was all Warne needed to see as a sense of the Great Bangladesh Collapse set in. Rafique made his intentions clear by hammering Warne for three consecutive fours - spinner tossed up, spinner hit out - but his aggressive intent worked against him as he chose the wrong delivery to sweep. Warne tossed in a faster one and Rafique was caught plumb in front of middle. Mashrafe Mortaza was then bowled first ball by one that held its line and kept low to hit offstump. Though the hat-trick was averted, Rajin Saleh pulled Gillespie softly to Hayden at short leg before Warne sounded the death knell by trapping Enamul lbw.
Australia came out firing and bowled like the champion side they are. Gillespie's two swift blows got rid of the main men while Warne did what he was expected to do on the first day: get his radar spot-on and make full use of Bangladesh's recklessness at the crease. His brilliance simply neutered the home side and made all the difference between a 375-run target and the eventual 307 that Australia require.
At the end of the day, even that total was made to look immense by another inspired performance from Bangladesh.
Khaled Mashud b Gillespie 0 (128 for 6)
Shouldered arms to a good ball that nipped in to hit off stump
Mohammad Rafique lbw b Warne 14 (147 for 7)
Chose the wrong ball to sweep, quicker on middle and leg and caught plumb
Mashrafe Mortaza b Warne 0 (147 for 8)
Kept low, held its line and knocked back off stump
Rajin Saleh c Hayden b Gillespie 33 (147 for 9)
Weak pull shot, ball lobbed to short leg
Enamul Haque jnr lbw b Warne 0 (148 for 10)
Went forward, struck full and right in front of the stumps
Michael Hussey b Enamul 37 (64 for 1)
Dragged a sweep onto the stumps
Matthew Hayden run out (Enamul) 72 (173 for 2)
Pushed to mid-on, super throw got him just short
Damien Martyn b Rafique 10 (183 for 3)
Pitched on middle, turned, and knocked back offstump
Michael Clarke c Mashud b Rafique 9 (205 for 4)
Back and across for a cut, thin edge well held by the `keeper
Jamie Alter is editorial assistant of Cricinfo