Lambs to the slaughter

S. DINAKAR

THE prospect of a cool holiday in Maldives beckoned and Bangladesh was only a minor irritant before the little sunny break on the exotic beaches.

Ricky Ponting's men took off to the tiny island nation after blowing away Bangladesh by nine wickets, with 29.3 overs still remaining, before returning for a high-voltage semifinal with host Sri Lanka on September 27.

It was a rather harsh education for Bangladesh at the Sinhalese Sports Club Stadium on September 19. One that brought them face to face with the rude realities of the cricketing world.

Man of the Match Jason Gillespie exults after getting rid of Habibul Bashar.-N. BALAJI

The message was clear - if Bangladesh desired to be taken seriously as a cricketing force, then it had to unearth at least two world class players, around whom the team could revolve.

Against Australia, Bangladesh appeared woefully short of depth and class. It did not quite appear that it could compete at this level, despite holding Test match status for two years now.

There is a need for serious introspection by the Bangladesh cricket officials and unless answers are found fast to pressing questions, cricket in that part of the world could stagnate.

There is great passion for the game in Bangladesh and it would only benefit world cricket if the nation improves its standard.

Matthew Hayden who remained unbeaten with 67, hits the winning shot off Mazharul.-N. BALAJI

Right now, Bangladesh cricket appears to be going nowhere, and what disappointed the few present to witness this Pool 1 match was that there wasn't even a semblance of a fight.

To cut the story short, Bangladesh, opting to bat, was bundled out for 129 in 45.2 overs, and it could have been worse after the side was 13 for four at one stage.

Tushar Imran, batting at No. 5, played a few spanking strokes at this point, square-driving Jason Gillespie and punching him through mid-wicket and it was chiefly due to his aggression that Bangladesh survived a torrid phase where it could so easily have been bowled out for under 75.

After Imran (27) was dismissed, failing to keep a drive down and taken at cover by Bevan, Khaled Mashud and Alok Kapali, offered some resistance, the latter in particular using his feet to Shane Warne and driving the leg-spinner well.

Mashud (22) was finally bowled round his legs, attempting to sweep a Warne leg-break, and Kapali (45) looked set for his half century, when he dragged a widish delivery from Brett Lee on to his stumps.

The Australian pace attack had done most of the damage but Ponting was happy that Warne finished his quota of 10 overs and Darren Lehmann, also completed eight, bowling left-arm spin.

Shane Warne, who had a good spell, bowls Khaled Mashud round his legs.-N. BALAJI

With all the matches being played at only two venues, the Sinhalese Sports Club ground and the Premadasa Stadium, the pitches for the climactic games would be worn out.

Ponting had this factor in mind when he said, "Warne didn't have very much bowling over the last few weeks so we gave him as much bowling as we could today. He had a good long spell bowl out there and he bowled as well as he could. It was very encouraging for us to see Lehmann also bowl a long spell."

When the Aussies batted, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist, probably the most explosive combination in business, took apart the feeble Bangladesh attack with some booming strokes.

Their 113-run opening stand consumed just 103 balls and Gilchrist pulling and sweeping as only he can, made 54 off only 49 balls (nine fours), before he was adjudged leg-before, attempting to sweep left-arm spinner Mohammed Rafique.

Hayden, who hit the ball hard straight down the ground, apart from pulling with awesome power, was unbeaten on 67 (69b, 10 fours, one six).

The Australian captain's thoughts were already on the semifinals.

"In the next few days we still study some tapes and come up with some gameplan for their batsmen and bowlers. Conditions here certainly suit them (the Lankans) and we have to be at the top of our game to beat them." The Aussies certainly were eyeing the future with optimism.

By the time this report appears in print, we would have known whether their methods were successful or not.

The scores:

Bangladesh: Javed Omar c Lee b McGrath 4; Al Sahriar lbw b Gillespie 0; Habibul Bashar c Gilchrist b Gillespie 0; Mazharul Haque c Gilchrist b Gillespie 3; Tushar Imran c Bevan b Lee 27; Khaled Mashud b Warne 22; Alok Kapali b Lee 45; Khaled Mahmud lbw b Watson 9; Mohammed Rafique (run out) 5; Tapash Baishya (not out) 2; Manjural Islam lbw b Watson 0. Extras (nb-5, w-1, b-5, lb-1) 12. Total (in 45.2 overs) 129.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-0, 3-10, 4-13, 5-49, 6-85, 7-119, 8-126, 9-128.

Australia bowling: McGrath 8-3-17-1, Gillespie 10-1-20-3, Lee 7-0-23-2, Warne 10-2-33-1, Lehmann 8-0-23-0, Watson 4.2-0-7-2.

Australia: Adam Gilchrist lbw b Rafiq 54; Matthew Hayden (not out) 67; Ricky Ponting (not out) 9. Extras: (lb-1, nb-1, w-1) 3. Total (for one wkt. in 20.4 overs) 133.

Fall of wicket: 113.

Bangladesh bowling: Islam 6-0-35-0, Baishya 5-0-27-0, Rafiq 5-0-32-1, Mahmud 4-0-34-0, Mazharul 0.4-0-4-0.

A passion for bowling

HE is a fiery paceman, who goes about his job with great passion. Indeed, Jason Gillespie puts so much effort into his bowling, sending down each delivery as if his very life depended on it.

His has been a career rocked by injuries and it is nothing short of a minor miracle that he is bowling as well as he is doing these days. Here is a man who never quite gives up.

Not really big built, the tall and lean Gillespie wills himself up each time he walks up to the bowling mark, and if Glenn McGrath, with his steely exterior, unwavering accuracy, and unending stamina, can be likened to a machine, then Gillespie, whose face mirrors his emotions, comes as an interesting contrast to his more experienced partner.

They may be different personalities, but make up a lethal pace bowling pair nevertheless. Despite Bangladesh being a lightweight opposition, the two put their best foot forward.

Throwing light on their mind-set, Gillespie said, " It helps you keep the pressure on the opposition. Whether the opposition plays well or not, as a bowler you just come and do your job." So McGrath and Gillespie were just doing a job against Bangladesh, not for one moment taking their foot off the pedal.

At the SSC, on a pitch that afforded early seam movement and bounce to the pacemen, Gillespie did not take too long to strike, trapping Al Sahriar leg-before with a delivery that straightened after pitching.

And No. 3 Habibul Bashar did not last long either, a pacy away seamer from Gillespie finding the edge of the blade for 'keeper Adam Gilchrist to accept the offering. Both Sahriar and Bashar had failed to open their accounts.

Gillespie was not finished yet. He soon snared Mazharul Haque outside the off-stump and Gilchrist was in the thick of things yet again. Haque did slightly better than Sahriar and Bashar, scoring three.

When Gillespie finished his opening burst, his figures read 6-1-13-3. At the other end, Javed Omar (4) had spooned a catch to cover off McGrath and the feared new ball pair had done the early and decisive damage yet again.

Against New Zealand it was McGrath who assumed the lead role. Gillespie it was, who was the pick against Bangladesh. The Man of the Match adjudicator had an easy job.