Mitchell Marsh and Steve Smith hold the rare distinction of being the only overseas pair to represent both the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises from Pune. The duo marked their return to the city in style by helping Australia make a mockery of the 307-run target set by Bangladesh in their last World Cup 2023 group game.
Riding on their unbroken 175-run association – with Marsh’s mammoth 177 being the star act – Australia overhauled the target with more than five overs and eight wickets to spare.
The victory – Australia’s seventh in a row – was not enough for the five-time champion to finish second in the league stage, but will hold it in good stead ahead of Thursday’s semifinal against South Africa.
Despite Travis Head’s attempted heave off Taskin Ahmed resulting in his woodwork getting disturbed in the third over, Marsh and the in-form David Warner kept the chase in control. While Marsh was using his long handle on a batting paradise at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium to the delight of 20,000-odd spectators, Warner concentrated on rotating the strike.
Soon after he crossed his fifty, Warner chipped Mustafizur Rahman to stand-in captain Najmul Hasan Shanto against the run of play. In came Smith and seamlessly continued his long hit, as witnessed in the nets the previous day.
None of the five bowlers employed by Bangladesh appeared to pose any questions to either of the two as Marsh and Smith kept punishing them. Marsh’s power-hitting rubbed onto Smith and he slog-swept Nasum Ahmed’s medium-pace for a six. The young pacer had the most difficult day as he conceded 85 runs in 10 overs.
Earlier, the Australian fielders came up with a few crucial run outs to keep the Bangla batters in check.
Its pace pack – without Mitchell Starc, who was replaced by Sean Abbott – continued to find it difficult to strike in the PowerPlay. But, yet another magnificent spell by Adam Zampa combined well with Aussie fielding to pull things back.
As a result, Towhid Hridoy scored the only fifty for Bangladesh despite all the top-seven batters getting off to starts. At 239 for four after 40 overs, Bangladesh was in with a chance of setting an imposing total. But Zampa’s three overs thereafter pegged back Bangladesh as it added only 67 in the last 10.
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