Bangladesh v Australia, World T20, Group 2, Mirpur April 1, 2014

Late win can't hide Australia's shortcomings

The sight of Aaron Finch and David Warner marauding their way to a 98-run opening stand hint at what might have been for Australia, but the selection against Bangladesh highlighted their issues

Australia's first win at the World T20, a tournament they entered as one of the favourites, only increased the sense of disappointment. Cricket Australia has been beguiled by the shortest format, giving the Big Bash League a prime slot at the heart of the season, while Australians are the most in-demand of foreigners invited to partake in IPL ambrosia. Yet success in this tournament remains elusive.

Beating Bangladesh at least prevented Australia from being bracketed alongside UAE as the only winless teams in the entire competition. After the conquests of recent months, and the burgeoning optimism of the Darren Lehmann era, this was the smallest of beer.

Even in this match, comfortably won as it was, there were signs that Australia's T20 cricket has some way to go before anyone will back them heavily again. The next global tournament is on the subcontinent once more, in India in two years' time, and the deficiencies batting against spin that were liberally riffed upon in that country this time last year will face insistent probing.

The sight of Aaron Finch and David Warner marauding their way to a 98-run opening stand - after previous associations worth 4, 33 and 13 - hinted at what might have been this time around. Such a platform could perhaps have been the difference in narrow but ultimately decisive defeats to Pakistan and West Indies. Both batted with the sort of freedom and aggression that characterised a summer of brutality during the Ashes and subsequent limited-overs larks.

Ah, but that was only against England, you might say, not even as good as the Dutch, on the evidence of their last game. And this domination was only against the more modest spin resources of Bangladesh, rather than Saeed Ajmal, Sunil Narine or R Ashwin, and in a dead game, too. Nevertheless, it gave Finch pause to reflect.

"I think myself and Davey have both been very disappointing in this tournament as a partnership," he said. "What makes it even more disappointing is that it took until the final game to have a big partnership, and to be out of the tournament already. To not be able to progress and then provide a good start for the side was very disappointing and something that is frustrating. We've both come here with high expectations of each other and ourselves. I don't think we played particularly well in the first three games and in such a short format you have to rely on your openers heavily and we didn't do that. So we take a lot of responsibility."

Finch and Glenn Maxwell were Australia's only significant contributors with the bat but there were problems elsewhere. Unusually lackadaisical in the field - an aspect of the game so central to the Lehmann revival - there were further discrepancies against Bangladesh, such as Doug Bollinger's defeatist flop at fine leg in a failed attempt to prevent four. Brad Haddin, having put in an unstinting shift since November, at least had an excuse for a tired miss off Dan Christian's slow bouncer.

With the ball, only Nathan Coulter-Nile enhanced his reputation and he was the pick of the attack against Bangladesh, who were allowed to make their highest score in seven innings at this tournament. The decision not to field a specialist spinner, although justified by Finch, was suggestive that Australia were unwilling or unable to properly adapt to the conditions. Brad Hogg played just one game, while James Muirhead was also given limited opportunities, drawing criticism from Shane Warne in his TV commentary role.

"I think the selection they've got wrong," Warne said. "I know their strength is fast bowling but in these conditions we've seen the wicket turn. Brad Hogg is a pretty experienced bowler, he didn't bowl as well as he would have liked. Young Muirhead, he's going to bowl a few bad balls every now and again but when he lands them he's good. I think they could have gone in with both those spinners, they've got guys like Watson and Maxwell as well. They could have mixed and matched a bit better.

Finch, however, backed up the decision to continue battering away with the quicks. "Bangladesh are very good players of spin and in these conditions they probably haven't been exposed to the pace as often," he said. "I think that that was absolutely the right decision to make. Both our legspinners are very attacking, in Hogg and Muirhead, so if that doesn't work it becomes a situation where you don't really have much to fall back on."

The presence of Mitchell Johnson would certainly have augmented such a strategy but the adherence to it with Bollinger as an unlikely-for-like replacement erred towards dogmatism.

Almost half of Australia's squad, including Finch, Warner and Coulter-Nile, will head on to the IPL to extend their tutorial on subcontinental pitches before an interregnum and a return to international competition against Pakistan in the UAE in October. Success in franchise leagues may plump reputations and bank balances but it will not make up for another World T20 that has passed Australia by.

"I think we've let ourselves down in all three disciplines over the first couple of games," Finch said. "And in such a short format like this that really comes back to haunt you quickly. When you have games back-to-back like this, momentum is really crucial. And we probably let that slip in the West Indies game. When we got to the India game we were out of the tournament. It's very disappointing. We came here with hopes to win the competition and we're going home with nothing."

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Prasanna on April 7, 2014, 8:31 GMT

    As an Aussie fan, I would be concerned only we had lost a test-series. Haven't we just won the Ashes 5-0 and beat the world's best test team after 6 years ? So why fret about losing a t20 tournament ? I wouldn't want to see the likes of Steve Smith wasting their time playing limited overs games. Move on.

  • Prashanth on April 3, 2014, 18:22 GMT

    I just loved it the way the WI celebrated the victory over the Aussies! They deserve it. With due respect to their fighting skills, Aussies have a long way to go in developing a sporting spirit. Thanks to them, we have this so called 'sledging' as par of Cricket, and to make it worse they eulogize it by giving it a term - 'Mental Disintegration'! I believe, a true sportsman enjoys competing, playing in the right spirit, and giving due respect to the opposition. Remember, its not a war!

  • Richard on April 3, 2014, 7:33 GMT

    @Wefinishthis - We already have a wide variety of pitches. The Subcontinent doesn't so why should we change? They must drop in a few pitches with carry for once. We already provide spinning pitches in Sydney and Adelaide, in fact all our pitches spin to some degree. You watch the batsmen trying to get under a delivery in Mirpur - even Warner had to bend right down low and reach for it. That's slow and low. Nowhere near the spectacle our pitches provide. No way should we change. Our pitches are infinitely better.

  • ESPN on April 2, 2014, 14:01 GMT

    Who cares about t20s let west indies play test than we will know who's better in original format n about India we all know what will happen to them next summer does anyone know what happen to England it will be same or may be worse

  • Wesley on April 2, 2014, 13:35 GMT

    @TheBigBoodha Yet you played a T20 series against England and a T20 series against SA in build up to the T20 World Cup they played plenty warm ups and played well in them all, after winning those series the Australian fans were cock sure of doing well in the tournament yet its ironic that settled team bowed out with straight losses. Momentum was holted by India and it was safe to say Australia didn't adapt to the conditions as a result went out.

  • Graham on April 2, 2014, 11:37 GMT

    Just a T20 tournament it is a very unpredictable game and Australia chose to play an arrogant/very risky way and it didnt come off. Recent one day series in India, the last T20 world cup in Sri Lanka, one-day victories in Sri Lanka suggest that playing on the subcontinent is no issue. The batting was reckless, the bowling not sure they picked the best lot ie Starc just back from injury, Hogg and Muirhead hadnt played first class cricket for a couple of months and Bollinger a liability in the field. But having said all that we put ourselves in winning spots both against Pakistan and WI where each game was lost through one or two overs and we are that one or two overs away from the Semi FInals. Cpt.Meanstar you have conveniently left out beating the worlds best team on there home soil out of your petulant argument. I guess when we were beating Sri lanka in test cricket on home soil somehow our inability to play spin was masked too.

  • James on April 2, 2014, 11:05 GMT

    Protears, you do realise that this was a T20 comp, yes? Honestly, I don't think I have seen a more illogical bunch of extrapolations based on the flimsiest of relationships between ideas. Let's just try one. Australia ran out of momentum? You do realise that there were only three players from the test team who played here? What on God's Earth has momentum got to do with two different cricket teams? Momentum cannot be passed from one object to another object that it never makes contact with.

    Ah, now back to the real world.

  • Wesley on April 2, 2014, 10:40 GMT

    Did someone call Mitchell Johnson a bowler for all conditions? of his 250 wickets 200 are in Australia and like 37 in South Africa, where conditions are hard and bouncing and Mitchell is in the full moon phase he is destructive but like the full moon it goes away for a long time and he is distinctly ineffective, something like 20 wickets everywhere else is indicative of that.

    Australia ran on momentum and the momentum kinda ran out. If Australia are basing dominance on Johnson, Harris and Warner, its going to get very ugly fast. The other "talents" Starc took a pummeling in India and England, Pattingson is something to work with, Cummins came and went and never will again, Lyon is lol makes you wonder how he got a hundred wickets, and the rest are unproven at international level. I am very much waiting for the India tour of Australia, as poor as India are abroad I believe if they leave Ashwin out they will have a chance. Amit Mishra anyone?

  • Chris on April 2, 2014, 10:39 GMT

    Like I've said before, we need to turn Marrara stadium in Darwin into a dusty clay minefield exactly like in India and play regular shield and T20 games there to develop our batsmen's ability against spin as well as improving our spinner's ability in exploiting assisting conditions. As Bangladesh and other new subcontinent teams become more competitive, we're going to have to expect to be playing more games on such tracks, so we need to suck it up and learn to play them at their own game. Australian batsmen are great in bouncy, seaming tracks, but spin and reverse swing leave us bewildered. I can only see this changing if we introduce such a pitch in Australia's highest-level competitions. Who knows, we could even make subcontinent selections based purely on player's records on this ground instead of their overall Australian records.

  • prasad on April 2, 2014, 9:27 GMT

    no way michael clarke would have lost that odi series in india or the first two matches in the wc.the fact is bailey is a man who looks clueless while captaining.aus needs a brash man like punter or pup not some on earth is he praised for his captaincy?ppl must stop lookin at the 4-0 hiding in india,that won't happen the next time round but aussies need to pick lyon,sok and other spinners on sub-continental tracks.the likes of our very avg spinners look menacing in our familiar conditions like ashwin,jadeja says it all,although have to agree ozha,harbhajan,kumble and mishra are/were great.eng did it with monty(yes) and swann with excellent batting from cook.i'm sure clarke can play that role here and a davie warner with his priorities set right can do the job for aus.also stevie smith,a sedate doolan,the phenomenal MJ and ryano can boost their performances.from a hardcore indian aussie fan!!!

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