|Ground:||Sophia Gardens, Cardiff|
|Scorecard:||Australia v Bangladesh|
|Event:||National Westminster Bank Series 2005|
|Other links:||Autralian innings, Bangladeshi innings|
DateLine: 18th June 2005
After Australia lost to Somerset, currently lying 15th in both first-class and List A county competitions in England, some English papers printed a version of a famous and oft repeated Australian headline "The worst touring team ever to leave Australia".
If the Bangladesh team that Australia faced today had performed as they did against England in the Test matches and in the first game of this Nat West Series that headline would have been fully justified. In truth Bangladesh rose to the occasion, although it is equally true that Australia met them at least halfway. Ponting started the day well by winning the toss but after that things went downhill fast. Faced with the same choice Michael Vaughan did the professional thing, he asked the visitors to bat first. The England bowlers followed the lead and bowled with skil and determination to reduce Bangladesh to a losing position in a few overs before softpedalling through to the close. The only two England batsmen who got a chance then completed a very competant day's work. All of these things have been hallmarks of Australia's performance for the last fifteen years or so.
Today was very different. Presumably to give his batsmen a chance to practice in the middle Ponting asked Bangladesh to bowl.
Gilchrist is at his explosive best in a tight position against the best bowlers in the world, here he went back and missed a ball from Mashrafe Mortaza pitched on the stumps and swinging in slighly, it may have been heading over the stumps but Bowden did not think so and the Bangladeshis in the crowd went wild, Australia 0/1. A few overs later the other opening bowler, Tapash Baisya, Ponting played straight across a full ball on middle stump and was so palpably lbw that he appeared to walk without looking to see David Shepherd confirming his fears. 9/2 on a good batting pitch with only a little help for the bowlers in the air should not have been a problem for Australia but Hayden and Martin adopted a cautious approach and batted on for ten overs until Hayden shaped to drive on the up and dragged a ball from the youngster, Nazmul Hossain, onto his stumps. Clarke joined Martyn and the scored climbed slowly, very slowly. By the time the innings reached the final ten overs the score was only just over 150. Ten balls later Martyn drove a ball straight into the hands of cover. Finally the Australians realised they needed to accelerate and although Clarke was out to a very good catch at short cover Katich and Hussey could race along to 249 when the innings closed. This seemed well short of a good total on the pitch but was surely beyond Bangladesh's batting against Australia's bowling. The Bangladeshis had bowled with heart and were superbly supported by their fielders who threw themselves at every half chance to save a run and scarcely misfielded all innings.
After the break in innings we all assumed normal service would be resumed. McGrath and Gillespie bowled accurately if with little fire and the Banglasehi openers were even more cautious than Australians had been. Nafees Iqbal fell to a regulation catch behind but until Hogg came into the attack it could have been a county match on a dificult pitch with neither side wanting to lose, except county matches are not played in front of thousands of over-excited fans who have in some cases flown halfway around the world to see their heroes. Tushar Imran clearly regarded Hogg's bowling as much more the fare he was used to and hit some splendid fours before Katich leapt high to take an excellent catch to bring Ashraful to the crease. In the 21st over Javed Omar cut Kasprowicz hard to gully and Hayden caught it well, with the number of misfields happening all around him this was almost a surprise.
Bangladesh appeared to be scoring far to slowly, although no slower than Australia had but Ashraful in particlur played some fine shots. When the rate required briefly touched 8 an over the number of shots increade and the rate fell back to between 7 and 7.5 where it stayed almost to the end. Habibul Bashirwas run out going for the second on yet another misfield and Aftab Ahmed replaced him, it appeared that Australia would be safe. Aftab has however been one of the few stars of Bangladesh's tour to date and he did nothing to spoil that assessment, Mohammad Ashraful meanwhile was in the process of eclipsing all other Bangladeshi stars in any field. While he was still in anything seemed possible. He reached his century off only 100 balls, only the second Bangladeshi to make an ODI century and the first was scored a long time ago and off a very different set of bowlers, Zimbabwe were much stronger then, but they were not world number ones!
As so often happens reaching the landmark was Ashraful's downfall and he departed the very next ball trying to hit a Gillespie full toss over longoff for 6.
With McGrath and Gillespie to bowl the final overs surely Australia would hold on but the excellent Aftab and the belligerent Mohammad Rafique had other ideas. McGrath finished well after bowling two expensive overs and seven were needed from the final six balls.
Gillepsie started the final over with a slower ball that disappeared fast, over deep midwicket for six and all that remained was for the formality of all the Australians to close in to save the single. Unfortunately Australias gremlins were still paying full attention and the next ball was inside edged to Gilchrist who misfielded allowing the exstatic Bangladeshis to skip through for a celebratory single and a momentous victory.
The idiot few who had appeared to be supporting the bookies benevalent association earlier in the day hurried to collect large rewards but for 100 million Bangladeshis around the world the rewards were already immeasuable, the most cricket mad nation on earth had seen its team silence a whole world full of cricket, they bowled slightly better than the world champions, they batted slighlty better (Mohammad Ashraful batted much better) than the World Champions and they fielded immensely better than the World Champions. Ponting muttered about mnisjudging the pitch early on and the batsmen not attacking the game but the dreadful truth is they were simply not the better team on display, the only positive they can take from today is that it is scarcely possible to believe they can play as collectively badly again, but then, they probably thought that on two other occassions this week!
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