Aussies defy battling Tigers

An overcast morning at Canterbury’s St Lawrence Ground greeted Australia and Bangladesh for the final, dead rubber, match of the Natwest Series group stages. Winning the toss, Australia instantly paid their opponents the respects of being taken fully seriously – inserting the Tigers rather than sliding down the perilious Cardiff road of batting practice.

Ricky Ponting’s aggression instantly paid off as a tight opening burst from Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie – Glenn McGrath sitting out for Michael Kasprowicz ahead of the final – instantly made inroads into the Bangladeshi top order. Javed Omar was squared up by a Gillespie out-swinger, edging behind for Adam Gilchrist to take a regulation catch. Brett Lee then produced a brace of yorkers to account for Tushar Imran – playing an irresponsible leg glance first ball – and Mohammad Ashraful, beaten by pace as he looked for an expansive drive to follow up a whipped six over midwicket.

From 19-3, Habibul Bashar wrestled some of the initiative back towards the batting side with a glorious quadruple-boundary over to take 16 from Brett Lee and keep the Tigers’ run rate firmly in the bounds of good health before Shane Watson extracted extra bounce and lift from the seemingly placid Kent track to entice another outside edge as the ball zeroed in on the Tigers’ skipper’s throat. Aftab Ahmed offered little substantial as he offered an aimless swish outside off to Kasprowicz as Gilchrist completed his third catch of the day.

Nonetheless, Shahriar Nafees soldiered onwards and in Khaled Mashud he found a willing ally. Both batsmen displayed a confident combination of resolute defence and purposeful attack – combined with forceful running and lax Australian fielding to add 94 for the sixth wicket before the return of Watson enticed a thin edge through to Gilchrist before a brief Mohammad Rafique cameo, including a straight six, ended in identical fashion.

Mashud’s near-namesake Khaled Mahmud joined the wicketkeeper at the middle with eight overs remaining – and added 57 through improvisation and quick footwork whilst continuing to profit from misfields and good fortune in addition to strong running between the wickets to bring the Bangladeshi total up to 250. Mashud skied the final ball of the match, and his last in International cricket, but it didn’t matter too much – the Aussies had a stiff chase.

Despite a stroke-filled opening from Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden fell for only a single run as Mashrafe Mortaza, easily the Tigers’ most impressive bowler of the summer, seamed the ball away from the Queensland left-hander for Mashud to complete the work behind the stumps. Gilchrist was unable to go on from his rapid start, making 45 before succumbing to one of the more bizarre dismissals in cricketing history. A full delivery from Tapash Baisya burst out of the footholds outside off stump and looped into Mahmud’s hands at slip. TV replays showed Gilchrist had played comfortably inside the line, but the Australian walked anyway.

Damien Martyn failed to reach double figures as Mahmud enticed a drive outside off for the wicketkeeper to complete the formalities; and at 83-3 the Australians looked vulnerable. Even so, the run rate remained comfortably in the realms of possibility and despite Ponting falling to Mortaza, well caught by Tushar in the deep, Michael Clarke and then Andrew Symonds eased the Australians to a six-wicket triumph that proved more comfortable than it had earlier threatened – as Clarke clubbed Mohammad Ashraful’s only delivery of a series, a full toss, over the bowler’s head to complete the run chase.

Australia move on to Lord’s, swelled to a capacity of 30,000 by temporary seating, on Saturday for the tournament final whilst Bangladesh return home – only for several to return later in the summer with the ‘A’ squad. The support act has exited the stage, and it’s time for the headliners.

Bangladesh 250-8
Shahriar Nafees 75, Khaled Mashud 71*
Shane Watson 3-43, Jason Gillespie 2-49

Australia 254-4
Michael Clarke 80*, Ricky Ponting 66
Mashrafe Mortaza 2-44, Khaled Mahmud 1-54

Australia won by 6 wickets

CricketWeb Player of the Match
Michael Clarke (Australia) – 80*

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