It has been a smooth if not dominant ride for Australia thus far but the defending champions run into a tricky Bangladesh when they strive to get closer to World Cup semifinals on Thursday. The Aaron Finch-led side is at number two behind table-toppers England, though it also has eight points from five matches. Australia (0.812) are marginally behind the hosts (1.862) when Net Run Rate is taken into account.
Australia will start favourites in tomorrow’s clash but a passionate Bangladesh are expected to make life tough for the holders. The ‘Tigers’ have shown what they are capable of when they comprehensively beat the West Indies, riding on a magnificent 124 not out from all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan. In the form of his life, Shakib has already hit back-to-back centuries and Australia would still remember that it was he, who had plotted their downfall in Bangladesh’s historic Test victory against them two years ago with a 10-wicket match haul.
The format is different but coach Justin Langer admitted that his side will have to deal with Shakib. “He (Shakib) probably is the world’s best all-rounder and a left-arm spinner,” said Langer.
The good news for Australia is that all-rounder Marcus Stoinis is fit after missing two matches due to a side strain though he is not a definite starter against Bangladesh.
Langer also hinted that a specialist spinner may come in in his eleven in view of the “dry” strip at the Trent Bridge.
“That (playing four fast bowlers) might change. That was more brought upon us because Stoinis got injured. It’s been wet, it’s been overcast, the wickets get a bit drier. This one (at Trent Bridge) looks dry,” he said.
Australia played leg-spinner Adam Zampa in their first three matches, winning two of those, but in the last two matches they have not fielded any specialist spinner.
They have used part-timer Glenn Maxwell as their main spinner in the last two matches, with captain Finch also chipping in against Pakistan. Off-spinner Nathan Lyon has not played so far in the tournament.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, are known to raise their level against top sides, Before getting the better of West Indies, they had shocked South Africa by 21 runs in their campaign opener. With five points from as many matches, Bangladesh have become a contender for the semifinal spot.
After his unbeaten 124, Shakib declared that he held no fear for the Australian pace brigade, led by Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. “We’ve been facing some of the best fast bowlers in the last four matches. We’ve been coping well and we’re not worried about that because we played England, we played West Indies. Both the teams got 140, 150-plus bowlers.
“We just need to do our basics right. I think we’re a skilled team and we are capable enough to counter those challenges.”
The likes of opening batsman Tamim Iqbal and wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim have been in good touch while Liton Das hit a blistering 69-ball 94 not out against West Indies. But the bowling department of Bangladesh will have to rise up to the occasion if they have to notch up their first win against Australia in the World Cup.
Australia: Aaron Finch (C), David Warner, Steve Smith, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa.
Bangladesh: Mashrafe Mortaza (C), Shakib Al Hasan, Soumya Sarkar, Tamim Iqbal, Mohammad Saifuddin, Mosaddek Hossain, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain, Sabbir Rahman, Abu Jayed, Liton Das, Mahmudullah, Mehidy Hasan, Mohammad Mithun.
Match Starts at 3pm!
(With PTI Inputs)