Flaws in Australia’s World T20 campaign remained evident in a scrappy victory to effectively eliminate Bangladesh from the tournament in Bangalore. Adam Zampa and Usman Khawaja produced noteworthy performances at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, but others were less convincing ahead of more demanding meetings with Pakistan and India.
Bangladesh never quite seemed confident enough to push through for victory, particularly after the the loss of Taskin Ahmed and Arafat Sunny due to queries over their bowling actions. Mustafizur Rahman bowled beautifully for his captain Mashrafe Mortaza, however, and in doing so delivered another low score for Australia’s leader Steven Smith, who seems to be wrestling with his game only a matter of weeks after being thrust into the T20 captaincy ahead of Aaron Finch.
Even when Glenn Maxwell had taken Australia to a position where they needed only nine from the final three overs, there seemed a certain lack of poise about the chase. Maxwell charged mindlessly at Shakib Al Hasan to be stumped, then second ball John Hastings was dropped when he pushed hard-handed to cover. A further run out chance was offered before Hastings was caught in the deep trying for the winning runs. Untidy was one word that came to mind.
Smith owed much to Zampa for bowling an excellent spell through the middle of the innings, just as Bangladesh seemed capable of building on a hesitant start. Australia’s seam attack was not exactly threatening on a slow Bangalore surface, and it was left to Zampa to fashion a trio of wickets – he also had a chance dropped by Mitchell Marsh in his first over. Zampa’s effort, on a surface that did not spin all that much, opened further questions about why the selectors saw fit only to take the seldom used left-arm spin of Ashton Agar to the tournament alongside him.
As he had done against New Zealand, Khawaja looked by far Australia’s most assured batsman in these climes. He moved into gear with the sweetest straight six imaginable in Mashrafe Mortaza’a first over of the innings, and found gaps with the sort of ease he has demonstrated since the start of the Australian summer. Khawaja was annoyed to be bowled behind his pads when the target was well in hand, and his exit betrayed the unease of others in a batting line-up conspicuously lacking in his ability to subtly adjust to the slower pace of the ball.
Australia had brought Hastings in for Agar in the only change to the side that lost their opening match in Dharamsala after the tour selectors, Darren Lehmann and Mark Waugh, decided against recalling Aaron Finch. Bangladesh replaced Taskin and Sunny with the left-arm spinner Saqlain Sajib and offspinning allrounder Shuvagata Hom, both of whom only joined the team on Sunday night.
Mortaza’s team were also missing Tamim Iqbal due to illness, with Mohammad Mithun moving up the order to replace him. Nathan Coulter-Nile bowled usefully with the new ball and Shane Watson found the knack for wickets at the other end to coax catches from Soumya Sarkar and Sabbir Rahman. Hastings and Marsh were somewhat more expensive, leaving Smith to call on Zampa.
His first wicket was a gift – Mithun arrowing a short ball straight to Watson at deep midwicket – but from there Zampa grew into his spell, and did not buckle when Hom went after him with a towering six followed by another boundary. Next ball he attacked the stumps and won an lbw verdict, and before the spell was over he had also accounted for Shakib, beaten for length and bounce.
From there Smith would have hoped for a modest chase, but Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim found pace more comfortable to deal with than Zampa’s spin, and played with some invention to find gaps on the off side and ransack 44 runs from the final three overs of the innings. A target of 157 was at least 20 more runs than Smith would have budgeted for earlier in the evening.
Khawaja and Watson began well, before the allrounder skied a chance and was dropped, but failed to take advantage when he chanced a second run next over and was caught short by Sabbir’s excellent return from the deep. While Khawaja purred, Smith spluttered, mixing one straight six with a handful of miscues before finally being bowled between his legs by a Mustafizur delivery that shaped back into him. Missing a ball on that line was most unlike Smith, as other teams will note.
Warner sparkled briefly before Khawaja lost his leg stump, and when the vice-captain punched a full toss straight back to Shakib the equation looked briefly troublesome. Maxwell balanced it out with a few keen blows but his seeming inability to stop himself from making rash decisions led to the stumping and a nervy finish against fumbling opponents. Australia may be on the board, but they are a long way from looking like contenders.