Australia seal unconvincing win
Australia 254 for 4 (Clarke 80*, Ponting 66, Symonds 42*) beat Bangladesh 250 for 8 (Shahriar 75, Mashud 71*) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
In their final match of the NatWest Series, Bangladesh demonstrated all the lessons they have accumulated on an arduous tour, as Australia were forced to fight for every scrap in an unconvincing six-wicket victory at Canterbury. After losing the toss and being asked to bat first, Bangladesh recovered from a dreadful start to post an impressive total of 250 for 8, and it wasn't until Andrew Symonds entered the fray in the final 15 overs of Australia's run-chase that the gulf between the sides was finally exposed.
In the end the margin of victory was comfortable enough, but for the departing Bangladeshis, it was very much their day. Their heroes were the young left-handed opener, Shahriar Nafees, who kept his head while the top-order crumbled to reach a career-best 75, and their veteran wicketkeeper-batsman and crisis-manager, Khaled Mashud, who consolidated at first, and then spanked 24 runs from the final two overs, bowled by Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie, to post his seventh and highest one-day half-century.
In their previous encounters with Australia this summer, Bangladesh had won gloriously at Cardiff and lost emphatically at Old Trafford, and when they slumped to 19 for 3 in the seventh over, it seemed apparent which direction this particular match was headed. Javed Omar and Tushar Imran both fell for ducks in a hostile start from Lee and Gillespie, and Mohammad Ashraful was yorked by Lee one delivery after hoisting him, Gordon Greenidge-style, into the midwicket stands for six.
Ashraful's example suggested that Bangladesh were demob-happy, although with Shahriar entrenched and guarding his wicket for all he was worth, there was a solidity to their performance that had been absent during the Test series. Habibul, whose form has flickered only briefly on this tour, strode out with a purpose and clobbered 30 from 24 balls, including three fours in a row off Lee, and when he eventually fell to a leaping delivery from Shane Watson, Mashud was on hand to add 94 in 20 overs for the sixth wicket.
Shahriar's fifty came from 82 balls and was celebrated with a twirl of the bat to all corners of the ground. His vigil was finally ended by a fine offcutter from Watson, but Mashud had set himself up for an explosive finish, as Bangladesh helped themselves to 72 runs from the final ten overs. It was a shock to Australia's system, but a tonic to a huge contingent of Bangladesh's flag-waving fans, as their team equalled the total that they had successfully chased at Cardiff.
Bangladesh were aided by another ragged fielding display from the Aussies, which included 23 extras and a bad miss at slip from Matthew Hayden, whose day ended as badly as the rest of his week when he was caught behind for 1 in the run-chase. His dismissal brought Ricky Ponting to the crease, whose habit of falling across his front pad made him a candidate for lbw at every available opportunity, as Mashrafe Mortaza proved a particular handful.
In the absence of any fluency from Ponting, it was left to Gilchrist to keep the score ticking over. He clobbered his first delivery, from Mortaza, for four, followed up with a six over long leg and had rattled along to 45 when his innings ended in bizarre fashion. Gilchrist aimed a full-blooded stroke through the covers off Tapash Baisya, only for the ball to lob into the hands of Khaled Mahmud at first slip. He walked off in bemusement, assuming that he had hit it, but replays showed that the ball had exploded out of a foothole at the same time as he had struck the ground with his bat.
Bangladesh's mood improved even further when Mahmud himself entered the attack. His previous outing in the series had not been auspicious - a first-ball duck and three overs for 39 against England - but with his 11th delivery he found the perfect length to draw Damien Martyn into his stroke and Mashud claimed his second catch of the innings. Australia went into the drinks break at 83 for 3, and with one or two troubling thoughts in their minds.
But while Ponting was off-colour, Michael Clarke was merely keeping his head down, and together they added 85 vital runs for the fourth wicket. There was time for one more alarm, when Ponting holed out to Tushar Imran at deep midwicket off the persevering Mortaza, but Symonds' arrival added a long-overdue sense of certainty to the proceedings. His unbeaten 42 included a massive six off the final ball of Mahmud's spell, as he and Clarke sealed the win with 11 balls to spare.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo