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The Bulletin by Anand Vasu
March 31, 2007
Australia were always favourites to bludgeon Bangladesh, but the fact that their Super Eights match was reduced to a mere 22-over-a-side affair made the thrashing appear much more severe. After putting Bangladesh in and keeping them to 104 for 6 - Glenn McGrath picked up 3 for 16 to become the highest wicket-taker in World Cup history - the rampaging Australians barnstormed to the first ten-wicket win of the tournament.
Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden give bowlers nightmares at the best of times, and when they come out to bat with a license to hit every ball out of sight, and end up doing almost just that, the only emotion you feel is sympathy for those at the receiving end. Gilchrist hit back down the pitch with such exquisite timing that the fielders at mid-on and mid-off had no chance whatsoever.
Hayden, who was literally licking his lips at the prospect of nine of the 22 overs being compulsory Powerplays in the rain-affected circumstances, struck sweet blows of his own, but for once was overshadowed. Hayden was unbeaten on 40 to Gilchrist's 59 when the winning runs were knocked off.
But this match as a contest ended well before the Australians could come out to bat. After rain had dampened conditions sufficiently, prompting Ricky Ponting to put the Bangladeshis in, a combination of accurate bowling and not-so-clever batting decided the direction of the match.
In some ways 22 overs is a long time, and the batsmen went a touch too hard at the bowling. But it was difficult to be too harsh on Bangladesh, who have little experience in playing such short games and were up against a side that is peaking at the right time.
Tamim Iqbal found that it wasn't quite as easy slogging McGrath, who got the new ball for the first time in the tournament, as it was when he came down the pitch and heaved Zaheer Khan. He swished and missed more than once, and when he finally made contact with a wide one from Nathan Bracken, the ball went high rather than far and was easily caught by Brad Hogg at mid-on.
McGrath then picked up one of his own, his 55th in World Cup matches, equalling Wasim Akram's mark, when Shahriar Nafees was too late on a yorker that homed in on the stumps. Two overs later McGrath left Akram behind. Aftab Ahmed, who had begun well by batting with more common sense, tried to come down the track and clear the infield. Bracken timed his jump well at mid-off and held the catch in mid air.
It then became a complete McGrath show when Mohammad Ashraful tried to thump one over mid-on and found that a clever change of pace left him getting too far under the ball. Ponting ran back from mid-on and took a well-judged catch. At this stage Bangladesh were 37 for 4 and in deep trouble.
They went from trouble to potential catastrophe in a matter of minutes as Saqibul Hasan backed away and tried to carve Shaun Tait through the off side, managing only an edge to the wicketkeeper. Saqibul, who had made 25, was the topscorer of an innings that amounted to 65 runs when the fifth wicket fell. Habibul Bashar, whose game isn't ideally suited to scoring quick runs, spent 43 balls making 24, missing far more than he made contact with, before pulling Bracken straight to Ponting at midwicket.
Had it not been for some exuberant hitting from Mashrafe Mortaza, Bangladesh may have folded for an embarrassingly low score. He managed to get the ball away to the boundary one way or another, swatting through the on side and even edging past the keeper. It didn't matter how the runs came; it was just good that they did. Mortaza ended with an unbeaten 25 off 17 balls as Bangladesh finished on 104 for 6.
When the Australians replied, and that's putting it mildly, the Bangladesh bowlers were left battered and bruised. The win boosted Australia's net run rate, although that scarcely seems to be a concern to a team that is steamrolling all comers.
The one blip for Australia, though, was a calf strain to Shane Watson, who hobbled out of the attack after 1.4 overs. Ironically, Bangladesh suffered a similar incident when they bowled, with Tapash Baisya pulling up in his bowling stride after 2.5 overs. Not only were Bangladeshi egos bruised, but one of their veteran cricketers was sent packing as well. All in all, a day to forget for Bashar's men, who were over the moon at having knocked India out of the World Cup not long ago.
Why the Indian opener would be well advised to shelve the hook and pull in Australia