Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha
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Australia Women 136 for 5 (Mooney 66*, Sutherland 26*, Khatun 3-23) beat Bangladesh Women 135 for 6 (Mondal 33, Jonassen 2-13, Gardner 2-20) by five wickets
Title favourites vs debutants. The experience of 347 ODIs vs 47 ODIs. The only undefeated side in the 2022 ODI World Cup vs the team placed seventh in the eight-team tournament.
As expected, Australia beat Bangladesh at the Basin Reserve. But the story of the game wasn't nearly as straightforward.
Heading into Friday, Australia vs Bangladesh was hardly deemed a match-up. Few would have considered Bangladesh any match for Australia. Enter Salma Khatun and other prongs of Bangladesh's seething spin attack. Exit Alyssa Healy, Meg Lanning, Rachael Haynes, Tahlia McGrath and Ashleigh Gardner - all inside 18 overs, for just 70 runs.
Australia have been an unstoppable juggernaut in this World Cup, winning all of their six league-stage games. But against a resolute Bangladesh at the windswept Basin Reserve, the wheels of their batting line-up threatened to fall off in the 136-run chase. Had serial rescuer Beth Mooney not grafted a dogged 75-ball 66, averting an unlikely upset would have been difficult in their last round-robin fixture.
It all started unravelling for Australia from the sixth over. Offspinner Khatun lobbed a loopy offbreak at opener Healy, whose sweep found Jahanara Alam at deep square leg. In blustery conditions, medium-pacer Alam then bowled a maiden to Lanning, the first time the in-form Australia No. 3 played out a run-less over. Lanning, who came into this game with 97 against India and 135 not out against South Africa, lasted only one more ball as Khatun took out the top of her offstump to dismiss the Australia captain for a duck on her 30th birthday.
The run rate in the rain-curtailed 43-overs-a-side contest at the time was under three, so opener Haynes took it upon herself to bail Australia out. That, however, was not to be as Khatun had her caught at mid-off. Left-arm spinner Nahida Akter joined in the party soon after, trapping No. 5 McGrath in front. Legspinner Rumana Ahmed then cut short Ashleigh Gardner's stay at a 16-ball 21 with a wrong'un to have Australia on the ropes.
At 20 overs, Australia were only one run ahead of the DLS par score of 78. And had medium-pacer Ritu Moni held on to Annabel Sutherland's return catch in the 21st when she was on 4, Australia's chase would have been derailed further. Worryingly, with allrounder Ellyse Perry out injured, their batting resources were relatively thin on the day. But thanks to Player of the Match Mooney and No. 7 Sutherland, Australia saved themselves the blushes and denied Bangladesh any further inroads.
The pair stitched an unbroken 66-run sixth wicket stand despite fading light and relentlessly high windspeeds at the venue. Mooney held up one end, rotating the strike when the opportunity arose and kept scoring at a run a ball for a significant part of her innings. Sutherland played the perfect sidekick to Mooney, focusing on playing along the ground mostly for her 39-ball 26 and, on 23, received a second lifeline off a shelled return catch to Ahmed.
Earlier, spinners Gardner and Jess Jonassen helped restrict Bangladesh to 135 for 6 with two wickets apiece, both bowling mostly into the wind following a rain-induced two-hour delayed start. With figures of 9-3-13-2, left-arm spinner Jonassen was the standout performer from the Australian side while No. 6 Lata Mondal top-scored for Bangladesh with 33.
After opting to bowl, the Australian attack persisted with lines away from the body and hardly on the stumps for the best part of the first ten overs. The ploy allowed Bangladesh to remain unhurried in their approach and keep the scoreboard ticking with minimal risks. Opener Sharmin Akhter struck a confident 56-ball 24 and played by far the best stroke of the innings: a cracking pull that sent Schutt's length ball for four in the fifth over.
The windy conditions, and the variety in Australia's attack was unlike anything Bangladesh had faced at the highest level. But their openers, Akhter and left-hander Murshida Khatun, weathered the challenge early on, adding 33, the second-highest opening stand against Australia in this World Cup.
First-change Gardner broke the partnership in her second over as Khatun swept one straight to Rachael Haynes at short backward square-leg. No. 3 Fargana Hoque became the first Bangladeshi woman to score 1000 ODI runs not long after, reaching the milestone with two runs off an edge off Jonassen.
Having posted 38 for 1 in the nine-over powerplay, Bangladesh struggled to unshackle themselves from Australia's meticulous field placements and their spinners' efficacy despite the challenge posed by the wind. So blustery were conditions that after a point, the innings went on without bails on the stumps, though neither side looked deterred by the weather.
Bangladesh reached their first 50 runs in 90 balls and the second in 130. The slowness in approach was as much a reflection of the thrust on preserving wickets rather than scoring runs as it was of the Bangladesh middle order's inability to work the ball around. Had it not been for Mondal's 47-ball 36 stand with No. 7 Khatun, who made a relatively quickfire 21-ball 14, Bangladesh would have struggled to post a total in excess of 120.
As it turned out, Khatun made her side's 135 look far more imposing against the world's best ODI side, leaving her mark on the first-ever contest between the two teams in the format.
Mooney praises 'extremely crafty' Khatun after jailbreak
Australia batter also says "that kind of pressure thrown out at us leading into the semi-finals is absolutely critical for this group"