Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Australia v Bangladesh

As I said when I was in France but did not have time to report on at the time, there were two test matches played over the weekend: the second test between Australia and Bangladesh, and the first between England and South Africa. My report on England v South Africa later, but first Australia v Bangladesh, and some thoughts on the series.

In the Australia v Bangladesh game in Cairns, Steve Waugh won the toss and sent the opposition in, just as he did in the first match. In that first match they had been bowled out very cheaply, but in the second they showed more fight, finishing the first day at 8/289, thanks to 76 from Hannan Sarkar, 46 each from Habibul Bashar and Sanwar Hossain, and 44 from Khaled Mashud. The Australian bowlers apparently looked frustrated and a little below par, with McGrath and Lee in particular looking underdone.

The innings was finished off quickly the next morning, with Gillespie taking three wickets and MacGill five. Australia then batted, and had no trouble with the bowling. Langer failed, but there were fifties to Hayden and Ponting, and then 177 to Lehmann, 156 not out to Steve Waugh, and 100 not out (a maiden test century) to Martin Love before Waugh declared midway through the third day with the score on 4/556. Bangladesh then again dug in with the bat, getting to 1/87 before losing three wickets just before the end of play on the third day. On the fourth, they lost more wickets to be all out for 163. MacGill got another 5 wickets, and Gillespie another 4. Australia won by an innings and 98 runs.

In the end, Australia accomplished exactly what they need to in this series. Two innings victories with plenty in reserve. Bangladesh fought, but were some way behind, particularly in the bowling department. The players for Australia who achieved the most were those who had something to prove - Lehmann with two centures, and MacGill (who really doesn't want to be automatically dropped when Shane Warne is back) with 17 wickets. Steve Waugh seems determined to break as many records as possible before retiring, and wants to make sure he achieves his ambition of playing in India next year. (His 150 in the second test meant that he had scored innings of 150 or more against all nine test opponents, which is really impressive. Also, he now has centuries on all Australian test grounds except Perth, where he would have one if has brother hadn't managed to once get himself run out when acting as a runner for the number 11 when Steve Waugh was on 99. I am sure he is aware of this, and it will be interesting if he manages to complete the set against Zimbabwe later this year. He seems very conscious of records now, and determined to break as many as possible before he leaves international cricket. Border's record for most test runs and Gavaskar's for most test centuries are records that will not last long if he gets them (Tendulkar or just maybe Lara will break the first, and Tendulkar will the second) but he still clearly wants them.

Martin Love really had something to prove after the first match, and scored an unbeaten century in the second, but this will likely not help him keep his place. Damien Martyn will be back for the Zimbabwe series, and Lehmann has clearly performed better than Love, meaning that Love will be the man dropped. (Martyn's last innings for Australia was a brilliant innings in a World Cup final. There is no way he will be left out, particularly given that he is a far better batsman than either Love or Lehmann). Given that his next game for Australia may not be for a while, I am sure Love was delighted to score a maiden test century.

Gillespie also bowled well, taking 11 wickets in the series at an average of 15.

Australia's best players didn't perform so much. Hayden, Langer, Ponting, McGrath, and Lee all ended the series with worse averages than they started, although none of them precisely failed. They just didn't rise to the occasion, because it wasn't a terribly big occasion to rise to. The players that performed did so for personal reasons.

Bangladesh on the other hand demonstrated that they can put in one good day per test match, before falling apart on the others. They at least managed to push the second match into a fourth day. Still, they have a long way to go, even if they were clearly putting up a fight. There were some positives for them out of the series, but they have a long way to go. Hopefully they can get better.

In any even, three one day internationals over the next week. More comfortable victories to Australia, no doubt. Damien Martyn is back from injury. We will see whether he is fully fit, and can score some runs.

Update: Glenn McGrath has been carrying a foot injury, which may well have affected his form. McGrath has withdrawn from the team for the one day matches in order to receive treatment and possibly have an operation. Australia's next series is the Zimbabwe tests in October, and he expects to play in those. Brad Williams has been brought into the Australian squad to replace McGrath. Williams was quoted as saying the following in response to this.

Obviously I am disappointed for Glenn, because I know how much he enjoys playing cricket for Australia, but for me, these opportunities don't come around very often. I am thrilled that the selectors have seen fit to pick me, and should I get the opportunity to take part in any match during the series, I am going to grab it with both hands,

The Australian board actually hires media consultants to coach players in how to make banal and inoffensive comments like that to the media. Sometimes I wish someone would actually say that he has been deeply frustrated by his previous non-selection, that the selectors are a pack of idiots, and that he has been really hoping that someone would break a leg to provide an opening in the side for years now, but this sort of announcement is sadly rare these days.

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