Gilchrist charge sets up Aussie victory
Batsmen from both teams struggled - Bangladesh against a subtle change of pace and Australia against left-arm spin - but Adam Gilchrist's brutal brilliance made the difference and spurred Australia to a victory that was in little doubt after the 10th over of the chase. Gilchrist's assault came after a disciplined bowling performance by an inexperienced attack had dismissed Bangladesh for 195 in the first one-day international at Chittagong.
Gilchrist's whirlwind 76 off 46 balls blasted away a huge chunk of the target before Bangladesh's spinners came into play. Australia galloped to 96 off 10.5 overs but after Gilchrist's dismissal the remaining 99 runs took 33.1 overs to get. Abdur Razzak applied the brakes with his left-arm spin, taking 3 for 36 and Mohammad Rafique, though wicketless, conceded a miserly 14 runs in ten overs. Eventually, Michael Hussey and Brett Lee steered Australia to victory but if not for Gilchrist's blitz, it could have well been Bangladesh's match.
Australia started cautiously, only 11 runs came off the first three overs. In the fourth over, Gilchrist exploded. A slap through covers, followed by a fierce cut off the back foot and a drilled drive down the ground made it three fours in a row off Mashrafe Mortaza. Three more fours came off Syed Rasel's next over and in the sixth, Gilchrist rocked back and man-handled Mortaza by carting him high and far over midwicket for the first of five sixes. In that same over, he miscued another attempted six and the top edge swirled down to long leg where Syed Rasel floored a crucial catch. Rasel had to bowl the very next over and Gilchrist rubbed it in by clouting another six to bring up his fifty off just 29 balls. Habibul Bashar brought on Razzak but Gilchrist hammered him for two sixes over midwicket. He eventually did get Gilchrist out, trapped in front while attempting a slog-sweep, but the proverbial horse had bolted several overs ago.
Though all this carnage, Simon Katich remained a spectator, accumulating 14 off 22 balls as it rained runs at the other end. He miscued a pull off Mortaza to midwicket soon after and Razzak trapped Andrew Symonds and Ricky Ponting with arm balls in quick time. Michael Clarke's run-out reduced Australia to 155 for 5 and gave Bangladesh a window of opportunity. But Razzak and Rafique had finished their overs and Bangladesh couldn't find that extra something to pounce on the jugular.
While Australia had to scrap for their runs against quality spin, Bangladesh's batsmen brought about their own misfortune by playing indiscrete shots at inappropriate moments during what was a rudderless innings. To play out the new ball and take advantage of Australia's inexperienced support bowlers, should have been the plan but Bangladesh's top order had other ideas. Dan Cullen was making his debut and Mitchell Johnson had played just two ODIs, but Bangladesh lost two wickets each to Brett Lee and Nathan Bracken before the 20th over and were unable to put the untested bowlers under any sort of pressure.
Only Bashar showed the needed concentration during a gritty half-century but by then there were hardly any batsmen left to follow his example. After opting to bat on a flat deck with a speedy outfield, Bangladesh made an ideal start by scoring 26 from the first three overs. Then Bracken, who conceded 13 off his first over, began to cleverly change his pace and conceded just nine off his next five overs. Saleh's top-edge off Bracken to third man was the first of several rash strokes and soft dismissals.
The runs dried up at one end but Aftab Ahmed had no trouble in maintaining a healthy strike-rate at the other. While Aftab was playing stunning shots like the swivel pull off Johnson that sailed over deep square leg for six, Mohammad Ashraful, normally a flamboyant batsman, struggled to even rotate strike and his frustration ended with a failed attempt to clear mid-off. Aftab's wicket, spooning Lee's slower ball to point, left Bangladesh struggling at 79 for 4. Such was their plight that when Cullen was introduced on his ODI debut, he bowled two consecutive maidens.
Bashar and Khaled Mashud added 54 for the sixth wicket, the only partnership of note in the innings. Though he didn't score at a rapid pace, Bashar bound the innings together in the middle overs. His stumping off Hogg in the 43rd over snuffed out any hopes of Bangladesh posing a challenge during the slog and hastened the collapse.
Had Bangladesh snared Gilchrist early, 195 may have been enough. But they didn't, and his innings made all the difference.
Rajin Saleh c Lee b Bracken 7 (26 for 1)
Top-edged a wild slash to third man
Shahriar Nafees c Gilchrist b Lee 16 (33 for 2)
Gloved an attempted pull
Mohammad Ashraful c Cullen b Bracken 5 (52 for 3)
Holed out to mid-off
Aftab Ahmed c Clarke b Lee 30 (79 for 4)
Spooned a slower delivery to point
Tushar Imran c Gilchrist b Hogg 20 (117 for 5)
Bottom-edged a googly while trying to pull
Habibul Bashar st Gilchrist b Hogg 52 (171 for 6)
Charged down the track and was beaten by the turn
Khaled Mashud b Mitchell Johnson 27 (182 for 7)
Moved across and lost his leg stump
Mashrafe Mortaza c Gilchrist b Hogg (185 for 8)
Miscued slog richocheted off the pad
Mohammad Rafique c Hogg b Symonds 8 (194 for 9)
Top-edged to midwicket
Syed Rasel c Gilchrist b Symonds 0 (195 all out)
Edged an attempted cut
Adam Gilchrist lbw Razzak 76 (96 for 1)
Missed a slog-sweep
Simon Katich c Bashar b Mortaza 18 (101 for 2)
Pulled straight to midwicket
Andrew Symonds lbw Razzak 0 (109 for 3)
Trapped in front by an arm ball
Ricky Ponting lbw Razzak 14 (133 for 4)
Played back to another arm ball
Michael Clarke run out Ashraful 16 (155 for 5)
Went for a single but caught short by a throw from square leg
Hogg c Razzaq b Tushar 7 (174 for 6)
Pulled a lollipop full-toss to mid-on
George Binoy is editorial assistant of Cricinfo