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Khawaja, bowlers give Australia vital win

Wisden India logo Wisden India 21-03-2016

It was a match both the participating teams had to win to stay alive in the Super 10 Group 2 of the ICC World Twenty20 2016. In the end on Monday (March 21), Australia had a little more firepower in their arsenal than Bangladesh.

Bangladesh, set back by the suspensions to Taskin Ahmed and Arafat Sunny, and then without Tamim Iqbal who was unwell, fought the good fight, but they just didn’t have enough to topple Australia, even though the Australian batsmen did make it a contest by going into collective brain freeze with the target inches away.

Having opted to field at the M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore, Australia restricted Bangladesh to 156 for 5 despite Shakib Al Hasan’s 25-ball 33 and Mahmudullah’s impressive unbeaten 49 from 29 balls. They then had Usman Khawaja leading the way as the target was overhauled with just three wickets in hand and nine balls to spare.

That Australia meant business was evident from the very start of their chase, when Mashrafe Mortaza, opening the bowling in Taskin’s absence, was slammed straight down the ground for six.

Khawaja just didn’t look back, and with Shane Watson joining in the fun against a bowling attack that had little going for it bar the stray occasions when Mustafizur Rahman rushed and cramped the batsmen with his pace and movement, Bangladesh’s total looked smaller and smaller with each passing minute.

Not once did Khawaja look like he was in a hurry, or that he felt the need to hit out.

Watson played a beautiful steer through wicketkeeper and the wide slip for four, was dropped by Mohammad Mithun when he skied Mustafizur, then sent Saqlain Sajib for a muscular six over long-on before being run out. Steven Smith came in, clubbed Saqlain down the ground for six and was then done in by Mustafizur’s guile, a pacy yorker that he played on to, the ball going through between his legs. David Warner had a similar night, pulling four and clouting six over cover off Mahmudullah, but then sending a full toss back to Shakib to be out caught and bowled.

But, all along, Khawaja was constructing about the classiest little Twenty20 innings possible. Cuts, well placed and powered, flicks and drives, they all flowed from Khawaja’s bat as he brought up his first T20 International half-century in only his fifth game. He didn’t last forever, out for a 45-ball 58 when Al-Amin Hossain bowled him around his legs, but he had played the lead in Australia reaching 115 by then with 42 needed from 42.

Mustafizur, however, wanted to have a say in the matter, and had Mitchell Marsh in a total tangle in his last over before getting him to top edge a slower off-cutter up for a catch at point.

Glenn Maxwell ensured that Mustafizur didn’t walk away with a smile on his face. Flick – six. Lofted on-drive – six. Maxwell fell stumped off Shakib for a 15-ball 26 with two fours and two sixes, Al-Amin put down a sitter off John Hastings at cover in the same over, but Hastings got himself out anyway, holing out going for a needless hoick off the last ball of the over to create a bit of a flutter. But the target was a stroke away, and James Faulkner got Australia there without further ado.

In the first half, it was a lot of senseless slogging and then remarkable composure on the part of Shakib first and then Mahmudullah that stood out.

Bangladesh got hardly anything right to start with. Nathan Coulter-Nile was brilliant, bowling with no one in the deep out at midwicket or sweeper cover and pitching it regularly on the stray grassy patches on the pitch. Watson was canny, and the two ensured that it took till the 20th ball of the innings for the first boundary.

It was all about hitting and missing, and prods and pokes, and steers down to third man for the most part. When Shakib came out to bat, the scoreboard read a tricky 25 for 2 in 5.1 overs. All Bangladesh reached by the end of the Power Play was 33 for 2, with Soumya Sarkar and Sabbir Rahman back in the hut.

The best Shakib played was his first major shot, a cut between widish first slip and third man for four, even as Mithun got the long handle out against Marsh. Mithun fell soon after and Shuvagata Hom, one of the replacements, got stuck into Adam Zampa after being dropped by Marsh off the same bowler, hitting one high into the long-on stands, and then square-driving for four. But he fell too, and that brought the best of the Bangladesh batsmen together.

Why Mahmudullah doesn’t bat higher up the order is a mystery that might never be solved – No.6 is his spot even though Bangladesh move the rest of their batsmen up and down like the experiments of a mad scientist. But he got his go, with enough balls in hand for a change, when Hom was out lbw to Zampa. The total then was 78 for 4 in the 12th over, and Shakib was striking it cleanly, the four over cover and six over long-on he sent Maxwell for off consecutive balls all class and no slog.

Mahmudullah got into his stride straightaway, cutting Hastings between point and third man for four and following that up with the perfect pull for six.

The hundred of the innings came in 14.3 overs when Shakib drove James Faulkner over cover for four. However, he then threw it away, giving himself room to cut Zampa but top edging to short third man instead. Zampa was Australia’s best bowler, with 3 for 23, but Coulter-Nile’s none for 21 – 12 came in the final over – was, possibly, more impressive.

Then followed a quiet phase as Mushfiqur Rahim settled down and Mahmudullah couldn’t quite find his range. But when he did, against Faulkner to start with, it was brilliant. From 112 for 5 with 18 balls left, Mahmudullah turned it on, Rahim doing his bit as well. Fours flowed, chiefly in the point region, which Mahmudullah found with great timing and placement. There was a lot of intent but no slogging as the two added 44 runs in the last three overs.

Shakib, Mahmudullah and Rahim also did the one thing the rest of the Bangladesh batsmen just couldn’t – take singles. A few more of those, and it might have turned out differently.

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