Saturday, July 19, 2003

Things continue to go as expected, but Bangladesh none the less play better

My prediction of Steve Waugh's tactics turned out to be pretty much spot on. Australia did indeed declare about an hour after tea with a score of 400-450. (The score in fact was 407). However, the rest of day two turned out to be pretty good. Lehmann and Langer continued where they had left off the previous evening, and then batted for about another hour before Langer was out for 71. After than, Steve Waugh joined Lehmann, and Lehmann brought up his second test century before being out caught off Mashrafe Mortaza for 110. Martin Love then managed to get bowled first ball, again by Mashrafe Mortaza. This was no doubt a highlight for Mortaza and Bangladesh. After that Gilchrist joined Waugh and scored a quickfire 43 off 47 balls, before being bowled by Manjural Islam. Australia were 6/313 and had a good lead already, but the game was not as one sided as some people had predicted it would be. Bangladesh were taking wickets, and had some chance of bowling Australia out. However, Steve Waugh was still there, and he is an expert at extending the innings in these sorts of situations. Plus, Australia's tail can bat quite well, and as it happened Brett Lee (who scored 23) and Jason Gillespie (16 not out) had no trouble staying with Waugh.

Waugh brought up his century and immediately declared the innings closed, on 7/407, a first innings lead of 310. This was Waugh's 31st test century, which is a very impressive number by any standards. Given the difficulty he had scoring test centuries early in his career (and his associated tendency to get out in the 90s) the number really shows how well he has played over the last decade. The innings also made Waugh the first Australian to score test centuries against nine different opponents, and only the second player in the world (after Gary Kirsten of South Africa) to do this. Plus, it boosted Waugh's average back over the 50 mark, to 50.31. If Waugh wanted to retire now, that would look nice in the record books. (Of course, he has recently stated he wants to play for another year, and given his recent form he may well do so).

As far as the Australian innings is concerned, once again it's worth mentioning that it was the players who have not played every match over the last year who scored the runs: Langer, Waugh, Lehmann. Those who have suffered the year long grind (and who have undoubtedly spent the last month resting) were a little more subdued. (The exception to this rule is Love, who has played relatively few games for Australia but failed anyway). My suspicion is we may see more from Hayden, Ponting, and Gilchrist in the second test.

In any event, Bangladesh had to face 15 overs before the end of the day in their second innings. They lost Javed Omar to McGrath in the third over, and another collapse looked quite possible. However, it didn't happen. Hannan Sarkar and Habibul Bashar batted aggressively and well for the rest of the day, taking the score to 1/70 at stumps, a runrate of 4.67. Bangladesh are going to lose this game, but their aim must be to avoid an innings defeat. For this, they require another 240 runs. This is going to be hard, but hopefully they can give it a shot on day three.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that Sri Lanka will be playing Australia in Darwin and Cairns in a year's time. That should be fun. I must find an excuse to be there.

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