By R Kaushik in Mirpur
Opener smashes 71 off 45 as Bangladesh’s best batting performance of ICC World Twenty20 not enough to stave off seven-wicket defeat
This victory will come as scant consolation for Australia, who arrived in Bangladesh with one of the strongest batting combinations of the tournament, but that was below-par in its first two games and was blown away by India’s spinners on Sunday night. Faced with the prospect of exiting the tournament with four defeats in as many games after Bangladesh -- opting to bat first -- posted its highest tally of the event, an encouraging 153 for 5, Australia replied in kind, showing what might have been had the batsmen found their feet earlier on, by galloping to 158 for 3 with 15 deliveries to spare on Tuesday (April 1).
Not without reason are Aaron Finch and David Warner among the most feared opening tandems in the limited-overs game. After Bangladesh’s two best batsmen, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, had thrilled the home fans with a century stand for the third wicket around which Bangladesh built its competitive total, Finch and Warner treated the crowd to a wonderful display of intrepid shot-making, troubled only by Taskin Ahmed, the 18-year-old quick who caught the eye on his international debut, and Al-Amin Hossain, the tireless paceman who was rewarded with the wickets of both openers.
It didn’t take long for Finch to open his shoulders, Sohag Gazi’s offspin pulled through square-leg and then launched over midwicket in the very first over of the chase. Warner wasn’t to be left behind; there was one searing drive through covers against Al-Amin, after which the rampaging left-hand opener turned his attention to the assortment of spinners in the Bangladesh ranks, of whom Shakib suffered the most.
Warner played the slog-sweep to devastating effect, repeatedly going down on his knees and depositing Shakib either behind square or way into the stands behind midwicket. Abdur Razzak, the other left-arm spinner, wasn’t spared either as the leg-side boundary took a fearful pounding.
It was as if Warner and Finch were engaged in a personal battle of who would do the greater damage. Every stroke Warner played elicited an instant response from Finch, every Finch hit was matched for brute force by his partner. As the carnage continued, one couldn’t help but wonder how well Australia might have fared had the openers got going earlier in the competition.
Just about the only bowlers who kept them honest were Al-Amin and Taskin. Drafted into the squad only on Monday as a replacement for Mashrafe Mortaza, ruled out with a knee injury, Taskin was both quick and accurate, showing no signs of nerves as he quickly hit his lengths and lines. His first two overs went only for five; there was neither width nor looseness in length, and though he did take some tap later on, it was an impressive debut by all accounts.
The openers had put on 98 in just 68 deliveries and looked set to go all the way when Al-Amin went under Warner’s bat and disturbed the furniture. The send-off was unnecessary, perhaps, but having felt the full fury of the Finch-Warner show, it was more an expression of relief than anything else.
There had been no relief for Australia’s bowlers earlier in the innings when Shakib and Rahim were united in the middle in the fourth over after Anamul Haque, playing one hopeful stroke too many, and Tamim Iqbal were both cleaned up by Nathan Coulter-Nile.
Coulter-Nile for James Muirhead and Dan Christian for Brad Hodge were the two changes as Australia went in without a specialist spin option. It told in the bowling; the ball came nicely on to the bat and disappeared as fluently off it when Shakib and Rahim were taking on the bowlers, and Glenn Maxwell’s part-time offspin also provided easy pickings for batsmen who were comfortable against the turning ball.
Rahim was the more passive partner early on as Shakib tested the length of the boundary, first picking off Doug Bollinger and then laying into Shane Watson. Australia bowled fairly poorly, perhaps unprepared for Bangladesh’s batsmen, completely out of touch all tournament long, batting with such positive intent and authority.
For the first time in seven matches, Bangladesh had Shakib at No. 3 and Rahim at No. 4, and with its two best batsmen firing in unison, it finally found some momentum. With time in the middle, Rahim too came into his own, playing beefily through the on-side as any shortness in length was punished mercilessly.
Australia was clearly missing Muirhead’s legspin, but there was no time to ruminate with the runs piling up. In all, 112 were realised in 79 deliveries, with the promise of many more to come, when Rahim fell against the run of play, tonking Watson to deep midwicket.
With four overs left, a little more of the Shakib-Rahim blast would have taken Bangladesh further. Instead, it only got 29 in that period, Shakib being dismissed in the 18th over for an eye-catching 66 brilliantly caught by Maxwell, running in from the deep and diving forward. Bangladesh’s best batting stint had netted 14 runs more than its previous highest total of the competition, but with Finch and Warner deciding to sign off on a high, it couldn’t prevent a fifth consecutive defeat.