Australia v Bangladesh, NatWest Series, Old Trafford June 24, 2005

Bangladesh braced for backlash



Brett Lee and Andrew Symonds; back in the fold © Getty Images
Retribution is expected to be swift and bloody tomorrow, when Australia take on the side that humbled them so dramatically at Sophia Gardens last weekend. Bangladesh's magnificent victory - only their third against senior Test opponents in almost twenty years of trying - will live long in the memory for both teams, not to mention their incredulous supporters. But, with an emphatic victory against England to their name, it will be a renewed and improved Australian unit that steps out onto the pitch at Old Trafford for the sixth match of the NatWest Series.

"That win changed everything," admitted Bangladesh's captain, Habibul Bashar, as he addressed the press ahead of the rematch. "We have had a lot of calls since last weekend, the people back home are really happy." Bashar has been a mainstay of the side throughout their first five years as a Test nation, but there has been nothing to compare to the glory of that afternoon. It was in the early hours of the morning in Bangladesh when the game finished, but the result prompted spontaneous celebrations in the streets.

The downside of the victory, of course, is that it galvanised Australia into some serious action, and Bangladesh's coach, Dav Whatmore, was particularly wary of what might lie around the corner for his squad. "You can almost feel their spark and improvement," he said after watching Australia's 57-run win over England at Chester-le-Street. "Being on top of your game all the time is not easy, especially when you have suffered a couple of losses and we can now expect a rampant opposition team."

Australia's competitiveness was hiked up several notches by the return of two of their key performers, Andrew Symonds and Brett Lee, and Symonds was particularly eager to make amends for his absence at Cardiff. He was withdrawn on the morning of the game when he turned up drunk after an all-night drinking session, and Australia felt his absence almost as much as he felt it himself.

"It's the worst I've ever felt sitting out that game in Cardiff," admitted Symonds while receiving his Man-of-the-Match reward at Chester-le-Street. "It felt like I'd had my insides ripped out - but on the flip-side of that it's a great feeling to be back."

Symonds top-scored against England with a measured 73 out of Australia's total of 266 for 5, then followed up with seven probing overs of medium-pace and offspin, picking up 1 for 37 in the middle overs. But, with England having set the benchmark for the competition by rattling up a vast total of 391 for 4 in their last match against Bangladesh, one can expect Symonds to be a rather more free-scoring mood at Old Trafford.

Nevertheless, Bangladesh's batsmen aren't exactly in a shy and retiring mood at present. Mohammad Ashraful has clobbered 194 runs from 153 balls in his last two innings, including an astonishing 94 from 52 against England after surviving a freak let-off from his first delivery, when the ball landed on top of the leg bail but failed to dislodge it.

With Aftab Ahmed in a similarly carefree vein of form, and Javed Omar providing a steady presence at the top of the order, there is no guarantee that Australia will be given a completely stress-free ride. But, then again, Bangladesh have yet to come up against anyone with quite the same pace and point-to-prove as Lee.

Lee is currently languishing outside the first-choice Test XI, but his venomous showing against England on Thursday was ample proof that he wants his baggy green back. Bangladesh have been warned. On this occasion, once bitten is unlikely to be twice shy.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo