|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Aussies flaunt their class
Prem Panicker | April 01, 2007 01:54 IST
Last Updated: April 01, 2007 03:00 IST
Defending champions Australia powered to a 10-wicket victory over Bangladesh in a truncated 22-over World Cup Super Eights match in St John's, Antigua, on Saturday.
Veteran pace bowler Glenn McGrath, who claimed a record 57 World Cup wickets, claimed three wickets to become the leading wicket-taker in the event as Bangladesh scored 104 for six from their allotted overs.
In reply, Australia eased past the target, courtesy an unfinished opening stand between openers Adam Gilchrist (59) and Matthew Hayden (47) in 13.5 overs.
"Youth is a wonderful thing," the guy said; "what a crime to waste it on children!"
Indeed. Inserted by Ricky Ponting in a match reduced to 22 overs by overnight rain and inadequate drainage/mopping facilities, Bangladesh's teens and twenty-somethings came charging out of the blocks -- and fell victim to their own exuberance.
Tamim Iqbal had the temerity to give Glenn McGrath, taking the new ball ahead of Shaun Tait, the charge to only the second ball bowled by the veteran. Which was startling enough, but in the next over, Iqbal charged the pacier Bracken so often, Adam Gilchrst was forced to come up to the stumps.
That move worked, in an indirect fashion: unable to go on the charge, Iqbal stayed back, went on his knee looking, Kanhai-like, to sweep, saw Bracken take the pace off the ball and send it wide, changed his mind, slapped at it looking for the straight boundary, and managed only to hole out to Brad Hogg at mid off (3/14; 4/1).
Shahriyar Nafees didn't last long, yet again -- this time, Glenn McGrath producing a quicker ball on yorker length that went right through the batsman's attempted shot and knocked back middle stump (1/4; 8/2).
Aftab Ahmad took over, flicking Shaun Tait off his pads with Jayasuriya-esque aplomb; a ball later his flick-drive fetched three, pulling up short of the ropes on the drenched outfield. Later in the over, Saqibul Hassan went up on his toes to a short, lifting delivery and lofted him over third man for six.
It was like fireworks � as spectacular, and as brief. In the sixth over, Aftab came dancing down, went inside out to McGrath and hit with power and precision. Four, you thought -- and then Nathan Bracken, at mid off, timed his jump to a nicety and plucked the rocket out of thin air, to give the bowler a record-setting 56th World Cup wicket (11/7; 25/3).
The Charge of the Lightweight Brigade showed no signs of slowing down, even in the teeth of tumbling wickets. The tempestuous Mohammed Ashraful attemped a paddle sweep off, hold your breath, Shaun Tait no less as as his first scoring attempt. He cracked a four off McGrath through point, then went for a golf style drive off the tee that he mishit entirely, for Ponting at mid on to back pedal and bring off a well judged outfield catch (6/8; 37/4).
Wisdom finally dawned, and Habibul Bashar and Saqibul Hassan pulled in their horns and looked to bat through a few overs. Ponting spread his field out to protect the boundaries -- which, given the sluggish outfield, were hard enough to find anyway -- and reduced the two batsmen to scoring mostly through pushed singles.
The overs were ticking by, the boundaries had dried up (Ashraful cracked one off McGrath, in the second ball of the 8th over, and from there on, it was a drought) and the run rate was going nowhere. In an attempt to rekindle that first careless rapture, Saqibul slashed at Tait when the quick, in for his second spell, went round the wicket. He got an under edge for his trouble, and Gilchrist did the rest (25/36; 65/5).
When Mortaza hooked McGrath -- off his right shoulder and in front of midwicket -- it was the first four in 11.5 overs -- testimony enough to the machinelike efficiency of the Aussie bowling and fielding machine. The batsman, known for his big hitting, then teed off on Symonds, smacking him effortlessly for a straight six to bring some belated momentum to the Bangladesh innings.
Bashar, who at the toss said 180 would be a good score, fell in the final over, cracking a Bracken slower ball straight to Ponting at mid on to end a somewhat labored knock (24/43; 97/6). A Mortaza 'Chinese cut' found the fine leg boundary, and Bangladesh ended on 104/6.
While Bashar's estimate was never really on, especially given the sluggish outfield, Bangladesh was done in by its own breakneck enthusiasm at the start, and finished a good 25, 30 short of where it could have been. A chase at just under 5 an over should pose no problems for Australia's batting lineup -- then again, if Mortaza and the pacy Tapash Basiya, coming in to the team for the first time, can take out a couple of batsmen early and allow Bashar freedom to use his array of slow spinners, some fun could still ensue in this game.
For a brief while, Bangladesh's opening bowlers Mortaza and Baisya looked like they could make something happen -- both found the edges of Gilchrist and Hayden, only to see them go wide of slip and, on one occasion, split the difference between that fielder and the keeper.
Neither batsman seemed particularly perturbed, hitting through the line or square with considerable vim and finding the boundaries even on the sluggish outfield. Australia was motoring at 6.66 anyway, before Gilchrist in the fourth over decided that was too slow -- Basiya, pacy but erratic, was flicked to fine leg, then crashed down the ground twice in succession to officially declare the fireworks open.
It was all clean, cricketing hits -- in marked contrast to the inexperienced Bangladeshis, who charged and slashed and finally, burned.
The relatively subdued Hayden (8/9, while Gilchrist rocketed to 31/19) got into the act in the 6th, effortlessly driving Baisya over the long on boundary. A ball later, Basiya pulled up with some sort of injury -- from the way he was limping, it looked like he had done his hamstring a bit of no good.
Hayden, interestingly, was the first to go up to the bowler and ask him what the problem is -- whatever, he limped off the field, leaving his over incomplete as Shane Watson had done earlier in the Bangladesh innings.
Abdur Razzak came on with his slow left arm spin in the 8th over � and though Australia had already knocked back 56 runs, Bashar attacked with a slip and leg slip. Three came in the over, so Bashar went to another left arm spinner, Mohammad Rafique, for the next over.
Razzak looks to slow things down, Rafique to speed everything up, rushing through his overs in an Afridi-esque fashion. Between them, they managed to dry up the boundaries and force the Aussie openers into pushing singles. For a while, that is � Hayden opted to go square off Razzaq; Gilchrist went inside out to loft Rafique over long off for the six that brought up his 50th ODI 50.
Bashar brought on his third left arm spinner, Hayden met him halfway -- literally -- and powered him into the second tier of the stands behind the long on boundary. The target was just six runs away � so six it was, with Gilchrist going down the track once more, in the same direction, only further.
The 10-wicket win was a fair reflection on the relative merits of the two sides. The early wickets had cost Bangladesh any chance of posting a testing target. Then again, when you consider that Australia still had eight overs and a ball left, it is difficult to know just what a 'testing' target is, for this team.
The Cup: The Complete Coverage
Would you like to join the Cricket and Cricket Lovers Discussion Group and discuss your cricket views with other cricket freaks? Click here. Have fun!