A walk in the park for the Aussies

Published : Aug 23, 2003 00:00 IST

The Australian team poses with the trophy after beating Bangladesh 3-0 in the one-day series. — Pic. HAMISH BLAIR/GETTY IMAGES-
The Australian team poses with the trophy after beating Bangladesh 3-0 in the one-day series. — Pic. HAMISH BLAIR/GETTY IMAGES-

The Australian team poses with the trophy after beating Bangladesh 3-0 in the one-day series. — Pic. HAMISH BLAIR/GETTY IMAGES-

THIS is the most predictable answer in what is often the topsy-turvy world of sports. What would be the result of a match involving any of the Test playing nations and Bangladesh in any form of the game?

THIS is the most predictable answer in what is often the topsy-turvy world of sports. What would be the result of a match involving any of the Test playing nations and Bangladesh in any form of the game?

Of course, there are no prizes for guessing the answer here.

Unless the weather intervenes in a huge manner, a defeat is certain for Bangladesh.

Now, this can only dilute international cricket, taking away much of the game's charm, that lies in fighting, and fighting hard, with at least a hint of suspense about the end result.

But then, in the case of Bangladesh, it is an absence of talent that is often the biggest handicap. Despite the occasional glimmer of hope, Bangladesh is outmatched at this level.

The gulf is even wider when Bangladesh takes on Australia. In boxing terms, a featherweight meeting a super-heavyweight.

After the 0-2 reverse in the two Test series, Bangladesh was swept aside by the Aussies in the three-match ODI series. Australia won the first and second games, both at Cairns, by eight and nine wickets, and the third at Darwin by 112 runs. Actually, the matches were far easier for the Aussies than what the scoreline indicates.

Bangladesh was bowled out for 105 and 147 in Cairns and 142 in Darwin. And the highest batting average for the Asian nation from the series was Alok Kapali's 27.66 (83 runs three games). Just one more Bangladesh batsman managed to average in the 20s — captain Khaled Mahmud with 20.50. Figures that tell their own story.

For Australia, it was a walk in the park. Notwithstanding the absence of Glenn McGrath, who was kept out because of a loose fragment of bone near the back of the ankle joint.

For McGrath this meant a rare break from the Australian team due to fitness reasons.

The ace paceman was philosophical about missing out — "I have always said that if I keep playing, and the body gets used to it, and I'm fine. But getting back into it can sometimes be a worry. The back injury during the Ashes series was a bit strange, but we've got on top of that now... and then with what Jane (McGrath's wife who was afflicted with cancer) and I went through at the start of the West Indian tour. You can't plan for that. And the injury now."

However McGrath's absence did not mean there was any respite for the Bangladesh batsmen. If anything, they had a tougher time during the ODI series.

The fiery Brett Lee's four for 25 in the first game at Cairns was easily one of the series highlights. Not surprisingly, a Lee thunderbolt shattered wicket-keeper batsman Khaled Masud's thumb, ruling him out of the subsequent two games. "We saw some magnificent pace bowling," admitted Bangladesh coach Dav Whatmore.

That was a match where the sharp Jason Gillespie scalped three too, and the Bangladesh batting was ruthlessly exposed. They just did not belong to the elite league.

Reflected Aussie captain Ricky Ponting on Bangladesh's performance — "They haven't bowled badly. They probably just haven't had the technique and the commitment to survive against one of the best bowling attacks in the world. What they have to do is to be more consistent in everything they try to do.

"We all said they improved a little in the Test series, but at the same time, we were going to improve the more we played. It's now almost like we are in the middle of a season again, we are playing better cricket," said Ponting, referring to off-season rustiness that might have come in the way of the World Champion from putting their best foot forward during the Test series. Darwin and Cairns, recent Test and ODI venues, also came in for praise from Ponting — "both Darwin and Cairns have been successes."

Even as Australia crushed the minnow in the ODI series, some of the Aussies did help out the beleaguered visitors. Among them was Lee, who spent time with the Bangladesh pacemen before the ODI series.

"After the last Test, I sat down with a few of them, and the thing that excited me was how keen they were to learn. I arranged this session and just passed on a few tips that Dennis Lillee gave me. I was working on a few things, getting their action strong, their approach to the crease — just basic things that you might not be aware of unless someone points them to you," revealed Lee.

With the Aussies not really winning prizes for good behaviour in the Caribbean, a conscious attempt has been made by the world champions to improve relations with rival teams. A good start has been made against Bangladesh, but then, it can be argued that since Khaled Mahmud's men were not likely to be much of a threat on the playing arena, the Australians, mentally, would be in a more relaxed frame of mind.

Considering the one-sidedness of the contests, there weren't too many outstanding individual performances in the series. One of them, of course, was Lee's blistering spell at Cairns.

Not far behind was Damien Martyn's strokeful 51-ball unbeaten 92, coming in at No. 3, at the same venue. Here was a man, returning from a rather serious injury to his right index finger, not consuming much time to get into the groove.

The injury occurred towards the conclusive stages of the World Cup, and Martyn, taking the decision to play with a broken finger in the final at the Wanderers, notched up a superb unbeaten 88, dismissing the Indian attack ruthlessly.

Before that big game, the x-ray showed just one fracture, but later on, five of them, small in size, were detected. Enough to keep Martyn out of the entire West Indian campaign. However, Martyn does not regret participating in the World Cup final — "That was one of the biggest highlights of my career. When the West Indies tour party left, you were disappointed in the sense that you were not away playing for Australia and not being with your mates after the World Cup."

That was a tour when Darren Lehmann consolidated his position in the Australian middle-order. In the Test series against Bangladesh, with Martyn still not having recovered completely, Martin Love made a century, putting pressure on Martyn. "I am not looking at it like someone's taking my position. It's great for those guys to make Test hundreds. It's out of my control. I've just got to focus on being picked. It has been a long and slow process of rehabilitation, waiting for the joint to mend. I'll never have full movement in it. But at the moment, I can catch and throw without pain. The main thing, at the moment is I can hold a bat and play. "

After enduring a complicated finger surgery and a painful recovery process, Martyn appeared a man in a hurry at the Bundaberg Rum Stadium. A wonderful timer of the ball, there were some fine strokes in his 92 (15 fours and a six), as Australia reached the target of 148 in only 20.2 overs. Had he got to the three-figure mark, it would have been the fourth quick<147,3,1>est ODI hundred after the efforts by Shahid Afridi (century in 37 balls), Brian Lara (45), and Sanath Jayasuriya (48).

Then, in the third match, captain Ponting rattled up an 118-ball 101. Actually, the Bangladesh bowlers can take much heart from that game at Darwin, and paceman Mushrafe Murtaza (two for 41 in ten), left-arm spinner Mohammed Rafique (two for 31 off ten) and leg-spinner Alok Kapali (one for 43 in ten) can be pleased with their displays against a powerful batting combination.

Off-spinner Sanwar Hossain, whose action had been reported by the umpires during the Test series, was allowed to bowl in the series. Whatmore, no stranger to the chucking controversy, said the International Cricket Council (ICC) had still not communicated to the Bangladesh team about Hossain's action.

There was some respite for the Bangladesh batsmen in the final game when Lee was rested — Brad Williams took his place. However, that was a match where Ian Harvey, of subtle changes in pace and yorkers, grabbed four for 16 at the Marrara ground to snuff out Bangladesh's resistance.

For Bangladesh, apart from the bowlers performing a fair job in the third game, and some runs at last from Alok Kapali in the middle-order, there was little to cheer. The nation has a long, strenuous and testing journey ahead.

The scores:Cairns, August 2.

Bangladesh 105 in 34 overs (Sanwar Hossain 28, Khaled Mahmud 25, Jason Gillespie three for 23, Brett Lee four for 25) lost to Australia 107 for two in 22.3 overs (Matthew Hayden 46 not out, Ricky Ponting 29).

Cairns, August 3.

Bangladesh 147 in 45.1 overs (Alok Kapali 34, Brad Hogg three for 31, Darren Lehmann three for 16) lost to Australia 148 for one in 20.2 overs (Michael Bevan 40 not out, Damien Martyn 92 not out).

Darwin, August 6.

Australia 254 in seven wickets in 50 overs (Adam Gilchrist 31, Matthew Hayden 41, Ricky Ponting 101, Michael Bevan 57) bt Bangladesh 142 in 47.3 overs (Sanwar Hossain 27, Alok Kapali 49, Ian Harvey four for 16).

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