Captain Clarke hits century in Australia victory
Michael Clarke passed his first test as Australia's full-time captain, leading from the front with a century before his bowlers backed up the effort to complete a 60-run win over Bangladesh.
Australia have a 1-0 lead in the three-match series and while the results might seem inconsequential after the World Cup, the subplot of Clarke taking over the leadership from Ricky Ponting has created some interest.
Clarke's 101 suggested that the responsibility could sit well with him, and he needed to anchor the innings after Australia lost three wickets in their first 14 overs having been sent in on a good batting pitch. He helped get the Australians to a strong total of 270 for 7 and Bangladesh, who only twice in their ODI history have successfully chased totals of that size, were not up to the task.
They stumbled to 9 for 2 in the fourth over of their pursuit and, although Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan both made half-centuries, the result was all but certain by the halfway point of their chase. It was a strong all-round performance by Australia in the field, seven bowlers being used, including the rediscovered legspinner Cameron White, and five men claimed a wicket each.
Brett Lee got things started when he had Imrul Kayes caught behind in the third over and in the next over, Shahriar Nafees fell for a golden duck when he got his pad in the way of a Mitchell Johnson delivery that would have hit the stumps. Raqibul Hasan followed for 7 when he drove John Hastings to short cover, where Shane Watson took an Aussie rules-style mark, leaping high to his left, and the hosts were in trouble.
Tamim grew more cautious, Shakib steadied without scoring quickly, and the required run-rate started to expand. Although Bangladesh retained a glimmer of hope while that pair remained at the crease, the match was firmly in Australia's control when Tamim (62) tried to clear midwicket off Xavier Doherty, only to pick out the fielder in the deep.
Shakib also holed out for 51, but by that stage Bangladesh needed to score nearly 14 an over, which was as likely to happen as Australia calling on the commentator Greg Matthews for a few overs of offspin. The crowd cheered a few late boundaries from Mushfiqur Rahim (44 not out) and Mahmudullah (28 not out), but it was too little too late.
Not that Australia's victory was flawless. There remains a major concern over White's batting form after he laboured for 50 deliveries to score 20, and continued a lean patch that stretches back to the start of the Australian summer. He was dropped at midwicket on 18 and two runs later rolled his eyes in disgust at his own miscue when he failed to clear mid-on and saw Kayes take an outstanding catch, diving to his right.
Nor would Brad Haddin want to see any replays of his dismissal for 10. He wandered aimlessly down the pitch and wafted well away from his body, playing the wrong line to a Mashrafe Mortaza ball that rattled his stumps, and for a batsman capable of beautiful strokeplay, it was a horrid shot.
That those lapses didn't affect the result was thanks to the new captain Clarke, who brought up his sixth one-day hundred with a six pulled over midwicket in the 50th over. Clarke and Michael Hussey didn't rush things through the middle overs, and at one stage played out 65 deliveries without a boundary, but their 84-run stand built a platform from which late runs could be added.
The Australians put amassed 31 in the final two overs of the innings, and what looked like being just a competitive total was suddenly a very strong one. Clarke skied a catch from the second-last ball of the innings, but his 101 was extremely valuable after his side looked like underperforming when Haddin, Shane Watson and Ricky Ponting all departed early.
He used his feet well against the spinners and struck six fours and two sixes, and his tempo was just right for the circumstances - keep things steady early and attack later. His partnership with Hussey ended when Hussey (33) tried to clear the boundary but was taken at long-off from the bowling of the left-arm spinner Suhrawadi Shuvo, who took 3 for 44.
The Bangladeshis were generally sharp in the field and backed up their bowlers, including the captain Shakib Al Hasan, who didn't take a wicket but helped build the pressure with 0 for 34 coming off his ten overs. An excellent piece of fielding accounted for Ricky Ponting, who swept Shuvo and saw the ball saved on the fine-leg boundary by a diving Shafiul Islam.
His throw to the wicketkeeper was relayed to the bowler's end where Ponting, who had hesitated before taking off for the third run, was caught short for 34. It was a disappointing end to a very promising innings, Ponting's first in an ODI under another captain in nine years. He collected three consecutive boundaries off Mortaza, who was in his first match back having missed the World Cup due to a knee injury; the first a brilliant cut, the second a sweetly-timed straight drive and the third a punch through point.
Ponting and Watson had looked ominous during a 65-run third-wicket stand that ended with the run-out, and soon afterwards Watson was lbw for 37, trapped by an Abdur Razzak delivery that skidded on and struck him in front. But Australia's new leader engineered a recovery, and if his team puts in another solid all-round performance on Monday, he'll begin his full-time captaincy era with a series win.