September 19, 2002

Australia book place in semi-finals crushing Bangladesh

Australia have secured their place in the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy following a comprehensive nine-wicket win over Bangladesh at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in Colombo on Thursday. The current world champions, who thrashed defending champions New Zealand in their opening game, will now take on hosts Sri Lanka in what promises to be one of the most enthralling of contests.

On the day, the Bangladeshi bowlers were ill-equipped to defend a meagre total of 129 against an all-powerful Australian batting line-up.

Openers Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist were both in fine form as they almost carried Australia to their second ever ten-wicket victory in ODIs.

Hayden was the one who got off to a head start during a partnership that yielded 113 runs off 17.4 overs, scoring freely and racing ahead of Gilchrist. The left-handed batsman from Queensland pulled and drove with ferocious power, and all the fielders could do was watch as the ball raced to the fence with regularity.

The one striking feature of Hayden's remarkable strokeplay was his footwork. This was best displayed in an astonishing shot that he played after coming down the pitch to Manjural Islam. Seeing that the bowler had tried to foil his intentions by bowling a high full toss, Hayden just shifted his weight to the back foot and swung it over square leg for a huge six.

It took Gilchrist slightly longer to discover his rhythm but once in the groove he too was cutting and pulling merrily. The exciting left-hander made a cracking 54 off 49 balls, striking nine boundaries before being dismissed lbw to Mohammad Rafique with his side 17 runs short of victory.

Hayden, however, stayed till the end, smashing the ball over extra cover for a boundary to seal the Australian win in the 21st over. The muscular opener remained unbeaten with 67 off 69 balls (10 fours, 1 six) while skipper Ricky Ponting ended up on nine not out.

Earlier in the day, Bangladesh elected to bat and got off to a shocking start. The top-order batsmen showed a complete lack of commitment as two wickets fell in the second over bowled by Jason Gillespie. The lanky quick accounted for Al Sahariar and Habibul Bashar, both batsmen being dismissed for ducks.

At the other end, Glenn McGrath was his usual mean self and it was not long before he too struck, getting rid of Javed Omar (4), caught by Brett Lee at mid-off, in the fifth over.

Gillespie, then, struck again as Mazharul Haque (3) gave a simple catch to Gilchrist. At 13/4 in the eighth over, it seemed imminent that Bangladesh might be skittled out for the lowest ODI score ever.

But Tushar Imran and his skipper Khaled Mashud put their heads down, grafting runs and helping Bangladesh stage a mini recovery. Imran struck a few boundaries off Brett Lee while making 27 before slicing a catch to Michael Bevan at cover point. Mashud, for his part, made 22 before being bowled by Shane Warne.

Alok Kapali, who replaced Imran, received a life early in his innings - Hayden failing to hold on to a simple chance at first slip off the bowling of Warne. The Bangladeshi middle-order batsman made the most of the mistake and went on to become the top scorer with 45 off 75 balls. None of the remaining Bangladeshi batsmen were to get to double figures.

Ponting experimented for a while with Darren Lehmann being given a long spell of eight overs. Shane Watson's introduction was thus delayed, but once the medium-pacer was brought on, he hastened Bangladesh's end by picking up two wickets, including that of last man Manjural Islam.

With Ricky Ponting's men needing just 130 for victory it was more a question of when than whether after that. In the end, they took a trifle longer than expected but that said theirs was nevertheless a most comprehensive win.