Australia saunter to series win
Powered by Andrew Symonds's confidence-coated hundred, Australia cruised to a 67-run win at Fatullah and with it the series. Habibul Bashar stuck around for 70 but the weighty expectations of usurping Australia for the second time in a season got to him as Bangladesh fell apart under a spiralling run rate. With a much-improved performance from Sunday, Australia can let out a sigh of relief as their winning ways returned with another series in the kitty.
In truth, this contest was over from the time Bangladesh were left haemorrhaging at 8 for 3 as Brett Lee and Nathan Bracken worked wonders with the new ball. At this point, Bashar and Javed Omar would have done well to take a leaf out of Symonds's famed journal of comeback acts. Instead, as is the Bangladeshi wont, Javed undid the hard work of a 62-run stand when he slogged Michael Hussey's slow military medium to Lee at mid-on at the end of 20 overs.
Bashar, who oddly came in at No.5, struggled initially to work the ball past the prowling infield but his presence in the middle gave Bangladesh heart. A further 76 was added with fellow veteran Khaled Mashud as Bashar moved on to his third consecutive fifty, but it all came crashing down as the run rate soared to ten an over at the death.
Mashud chanced his arm with some miscued shots over mid-off, was given a shocking reprieve by the third umpire when replays showed him short of his ground, and eventually undid himself with a reverse sweep to Michael Clarke. Bashar fell soon after when he miscued the same bowler to deep midwicket. It was all the home crowd needed to see, and the swift lines forming towards the exit gates was unequivocal in its statement.
If Bangladesh had looked to adopt the same tactic as at Cardiff last year -work the field, knock off the singles and wait for the bad deliveries - then they were grossly let down by their running. Rarely were the doubles looked for, and the calling left much to be desired. When the need of the hour was acceleration, Bashar and Mashud were seen picking ones against Clarke's innocuous left-arm spin. Bashar's inability to find the boundaries added to Bangladesh's problems, and without Aftab Ahmed, a key finisher in Bangladesh's two big wins recently, the rest fell like nine pins. Compare their efforts, for instance, with Hussey's brilliant effort on the ropes in the 44th over: sprinting, covering yards, and stopping a certain four with an outstretched hand.
All this was after Andrew Symonds produced a confidence-coated hundred as Australia recovered from a three-wicket burst from Mashrafe Mortaza to get to 250, one more than what they set Bangladesh in that stunning match less than a year ago at Cardiff. Symonds's fantastic fourth-wicket stand with Clarke was exactly what Australia needed after Mortaza had dismissed Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and Simon Katich. The duo came together with Australia on 65 for 3, and when they were separated, 32.3 overs later, Australia were 140 runs richer. In a cool, calculated manner, Clarke and Symonds read the dormant pitch perfectly and set about the resurrection act. With the ball keeping low and not coming onto the bat easily, both were forced to be that much more careful against the spinners. The two were imposing for the manner in which they worked the field and slowly put the pressure back on Bangladesh. Runs only came in singles early on but critically that passage allowed Clarke and Symonds to get set in and then open up in the slog.
Symonds, impressively, cut down on his backlift and made sure to play very straight initially. He moved along a tad quicker than Clarke and appeared keener on the twos, and was quick to cash in on the part-time spin of Alok Kapali. Kapali, striving for the wrong `un, nearly lost his nose as Symonds charged and smashed him down the ground for four; when he tried the flipper, Symonds swiped him over mid-on; and when he opted for the common half-tracker, Symonds swatted him, tennis style, down the ground for another four. Before Bangladesh could say `comeback', Symonds had moved past 50 and turned the heat back on the hosts. Having got his eye in he then launched Saleh's offspin for two sixes in the space of three deliveries. He reached his century in the last over, which Abdur Razzak was forced to complete after Mortaza limped off after bowling just one ball.
Bangladesh were left to rue letting Clarke off early. On just 8, he went back to cut Razzak's left-arm spin, but Mashud failed to hold onto the thin edge. Clarke never looked back, and marched on to a fine fifty - full of those trademark cuts and glances - that had been just what Australia needed. Hussey chipped in with 18 from 15, but was cleaned up by Razzak off the final ball of the innings to give Bangladesh some further cheer.
Of the bowlers, only Mortaza troubled Australia. Unlike on Sunday, where Gilchrist dug into his wayward offerings, Mortaza kept the guns firmly in the saddle and kept the opener guessing with his well-disguised slower ones and wicket-to-wicket line. Gilchrist and Ponting were denied the room to cut or pull, while Katich was kept in check and was undone when he freed his arms. Mohammad Rafique and Razzak, the prime spinners, had little effect while the stop-gap trio of Kapali, Saleh and Tushar failed to do anything at all.
Adam Gilchrist lbw b Mortaza 32 (55 for 1)
Slower delivery, rapped in front of middle and leg
Ricky Ponting b Mortaza 5 (64 for 2)
Went for a pull, deceived by the length, chopped onto the stumps
Simon Katich c Shahriar Nafees b Mortaza 26 (65 for 3)
Expansive drive, fine catch at short cover
Michael Clarke c Alok Kapali b Rafique 54 (205 for 4)
Tossed up, inside-out drive to extra cover
Michael Hussey b Razzak 18 (250 for 5)
Missed a straighter one
Shahriar Nafees lbw b Lee 0 (0 for 1)
Pitched on line, nipped in and struck right in front
Rajin Saleh c Gilchrist b Bracken 0 (4 for 2)
Pushed at one outside off
Tushar Imran b Bracken 2 (8 for 3)
Dragged one from off onto the stumps
Javed Omar c Lee b Hussey 34 (70 for 4)
Slogged a slower one, leading edge to mid-on
Khaled Mashud b Clarke 37 (146 for 5)
Attempted reverse sweep ricocheted onto the stumps
Habibul Bashar c Hussey b Clarke 70 (157 for 6)
Mistimed a pull to deep midwicket
Mohammad Rafique c & b Lee 0 (159 for 7)
Tamely prodded a loosener back to the bowler
Alok Kapali c Hussey b Hogg 10 (168 for 8)
Slogged straight to deep midwicket
Mashrafe Mortaza c Clarke b Hogg 14 (182 for 9)
Flighted, lofted to long-on
Abdur Razzak b Hogg 3 (183 for 10)
Flighted outside off, tried to sweep, ball crashed into the stumps
Jamie Alter is editorial assistant of Cricinfo