Clarke's back but contest under cloud
Saturday, February 21, 2015
Start time 13.30 local (03.30 GMT)
Australia and Bangladesh have not met each other in the 50-over contest since April 2011, and the grim weather that swept across Brisbane on match eve suggested they could be waiting considerable longer to do so.
Much has changed since that last series, a brief Australian visit to Dhaka following their elimination from the previous World Cup most notable as Michael Clarke's first series as the team's fully-fledged captain. He made a century in game one, Shane Watson pummelled six upon six in the second, and a clean sweep ensued while Ricky Ponting got used to the idea of being just another player in the Australian dressing room.
Bangladesh were at that stage in their own state of flux - changes at board level and a poor Cup campaign had then coach Jamie Siddons counting down the days until his exit, while Mashrafe Mortaza struggled visibly in need of knee surgery. Both Mortaza and Bangladesh have been in better trim of late, their opening win against Afghanistan maintaining a run of six matches without defeat, albeit largely against Zimbabwe.
Australia, of course, have won eight in a row against South Africa, England and India, and with Clarke returning to the XI after hamstring surgery will likely be stronger again. The hosts have observed the high bar being set by New Zealand and wish to match it, though the rain in Brisbane means they may spend more of Saturday killing time rather than belting their less favoured opponents.
(last five matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
So here he is. Michael Clarke is fit for the Gabba but may yet find himself all dressed up with nowhere to play. Clarke clarified on match eve that his great friend and influencer Shane Warne had been taken out of context with suggestions Australia's medical staff had tried to "break" the captain in his rehab from hamstring surgery, and it will be interesting to see how he extends himself physically. There have been signs of a batting and fielding technique subtly honed to be kinder on his frame, but as any fast bowler will tell you, learned technique can quickly revert to instinct under match pressure.
Brad Haddin said of Shakib-al-Hasan that the Bangladeshi allrounder will be keen to "make a name for himself" at this tournament, but as the only member of the team to have played in Brisbane he will be equally keen to advise team-mates of how to play the Gabba's conditions. How relevant his Big Bash League experience will be is an open question, but Shakib is certainly a player respected by the Australians for his feats at boht international and domestic T20 levels.
Alongside Clarke's return, Pat Cummins has been tipped to come in for Josh Hazlewood, though the conditions at the Gabba and the length of the match my also dictate other tweaks to the XI.
Australia (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Aaron Finch, 3 Shane Watson, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Steven Smith, 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Mitchell Marsh, 8 Brad Haddin (wk), 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Pat Cummins.
With chance of a curtailed match increasing by the hour, an extra Bangladesh spinner could replace the extra batsman in anticipation of a Twenty20 style contest.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Anamul Haque, 3 Soumya Sarkar, 4 Mahmudullah, 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 7 Sabbir Rahman, 8 Taijul Islam, 9 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 10 Rubel Hossain, 11 Taskin Ahmed
Pitch and conditions
The fringes of Cyclones Marcia and Lam drenched Brisbane on match eve, opening up real doubts about whether the fixture will be able to go ahead in even a limited form. The Gabba's drainage system is famously porous, but a pitch that has not seen any sunlight for three days is likely to be green and lively should the showers clear enough for play to go ahead.
Stats and trivia
- Bangladesh's first international match at a major Australian international ground, having played top-end matches in 2003
- Australia's only previous World Cup match at the Gabba was a thrilling, one-run victory over India in 1992
- Michael Clarke returns for his first ODI since he injured his hamstring in the first match of five against South Africa in November
"The schedule is the schedule, nothing in my opinion is going to change it and I've been in trouble enough, so I might keep my opinion to myself. Whatever opposition you play, you try to win."
Michael Clarke on Australia's schedule affording little recent sight of Bangladesh or New Zealand
"Only Shakib among us has played at the Gabba, so we will be picking his brain about the pitch's pace and bounce."
Mashrafe Mortaza on Bangladesh's limited experience of Brisbane.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig