Australia have just two bowlers, three if Adam Zampa finds his touch. Josh Hazelwood is fit but is playing for Australia A in England. Instead, the likes of Nathan Coulter-Nile and Kane Richardson have donned the yellow jersey in England. Ashes focus, if you believe the rumblings. What it does is lull teams into thinking they can bash the daylights out of them in a chase. Start slow, play out Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, keep wickets, and then go for it.
But you can’t chase 382 with that approach. Bangladesh stirred too late in the chase and even though Mahmudullah tried valiantly, apart from lifting the spirits of the fans for a short while, it didn’t amount to much. Of course, the chase wasn’t the issue. The bowling was that yielded 381.
It can be said that Bangladesh were a bit slow in flickering to life on Thursday. Slow to start off with the ball – could they have got in more overs with the spinners with the new(ish) ball? All wisdom in hindsight, but they seemed on autopilot on the field. The Australians kept them in that limbo, securing their wickets, before launching an expected strike to take them to a match-winning total.
With the team they have, Australia aren’t going to get many easy wins but it won’t be a surprise if they end up huffing and puffing their way to the final. Then who knows what can happen? Nearly every batsman did what he is capable of. David Warner and Aaron Finch at the start, steady, accumulating, and punctuating it with a few big hits. Usman Khawaja, as ever, fluctuating between stylish and banal, from aggressor to accumulator.
When Warner fell in the 45th over, the score read 313 for 2. For a while before that, a section of Bangladesh fans at the stadium had already given up – not the thought of win but about containing Australia. “Let them score how much they want, let’s hope we can chase it down”. Glenn Maxwell made sure Bangladesh had to pull off a tremendous chase if they had to win by slugging a 10-ball 32.
Faced with a stiff target, Bangladesh tried to copy Australia’s method. Start slow, preserve wickets, and see later on. But Australia’s middle-overs enforcers are the same ones who bowl with the new ball. They bowl in tandem at the start and then bowl one after another in the middle and the end. To create an illusion that there is always a Starc or Cummins on at some point in the game.
As it happens, the others like Coulter-Nile and Stoinis pick up the wickets. It has to be said that Bangladesh didn’t quite attack the first spells of the two, especially after Shakib Al Hasan fell to Stoinis. Tamim Iqbal fell, dragging an attempted cut off Starc to his stumps. From that moment on, the game inexorably headed towards a Bangladesh defeat though Mahmudullah blew life into the game with some astonishing and admirable hitting. AndMushfiqur Rahim completed a hundred.
As we reach the business end of the tournament, Australia are slowly taking care of their little worries. Warner now has two hundreds, Finch has played couple of spunky knocks. Maxwell has clubbed a few sixes, and Coulter-Nile and Stoinis have had enough match time to understand what works for them in the middle overs. That they should cut out excessive short ones, slip in the cutters more. Their bowling is better than what it was at the start of the tournament. Zampa too is coming along – not quite at the level he was in January in the series in India, but getting better. With the personnel he has, Finch can perhaps never quite relax as a captain on the field but he is increasingly getting better control over proceedings.