Never, ever, did I think I’d be writing those words. Bangladesh have beaten Australia. Australia have lost to Bangladesh. Bangladesh have outplayed Australia. Australia have etc etc. 2 days ago, I wrote “God knows what Australia will do to themâ€¦How did they beat Worcestershire?!” Somehow they went ten times better than Worcester by beating the Aussies.
What a day to remember, and what an honour to have watched it. This is one-day Cricket – and this is Cricket itself – so strange things do happen; but not this strange, not this often. This is one of the best wins, nevermind upsets, I’ve witnessed; the best team in the world (and they are) have been beaten by the worst team in the world (and they are). With 4 balls to spare. Worryingly, Australia have just about 14 and a half hours until they play a resurgent English side in their backyard – a backyard teeming with a media ready to pounce on their losses. Ponting’s top will have already been blown half way into The Channel by now – what a fun game this is!
So what the hell happened? Australia were/are still remarkably unprepared and complacent – that’s what. McGrath – Glenn McGrath – looked nonpenetrative and not particularly fit. Jason Gillespie was marginally better, but really lacked spice and venom – his two most-relied-upon features of his bowling. And the entire unit looked bored, lazy, disinterested and expected “someone else” to win the game for them. Well they got that much right – Bangladesh won it.
After the 20/20 loss – a reasonable dent to Aussie pride in itself – they would have put it down to rustiness and complacency. After Somerset’s loss, Ponting was said to be angry and embarrassed – understandably, despite the county having two quality batsmen in Graeme Smith and Sanath Jayasuria. But now? What can be said? They have let themselves down woefully, and genuinely look a shadow of the team they have been, could be and ought to be. Bangladesh outplayed them in their fielding, bowling and batting – BANGLADESH!
So, on to the Bangers’ day to remember. It all began in the first over, ball number two, when Gilchrist was given out LB – a little unluckily, perhaps. Just the start any international side needs – dismissing arguably one the greatest ODI players of all time for nought. “Minor setback,” so the Australians would have thought: but the innings never recovered, or got going. They fiddled around in the dull middle overs taking quick singles, the odd two – but no boundaries. Katich – highly rated outside these shores – played pretty well, but the soon-to-be-disciplined-and-we-don’t-know-why Andrew Symonds was sorely missed in those middling overs. Australia, who – don’t forget – chose to bat (wrongly) had only made 249-5. Still miles more than they needed. Or…was it?
Michael Holding, on Sky, remarked twice on the lack of “chirping” or chatter by the Aussies – and it was worth noting. There really was no energy or commitment – or at least a distinct lack of what we are accustomed to seeing from Australia cricket sides. Christ – they invented body language on a cricket-field.
The top 3 Bangladeshis all made reasonable starts, and all coped with the threat of McGrath and Gillespie; but at 72-3, familiar frailities were being exposed, until man of the hour Mohammad Ashraful bounced to the wicket. He and his skipper, Habibul Bashar, put on a brilliant and measured 130 for the fourth wicket and there were genuine thoughts that Bangladesh could win it. By the time Bashar was run out, going for an unlikely 2nd, people were starting to realise Australia (despite this wicket) were in some strife. Betting sites must have been over-loaded – and I admit, I stuck a tenner on at Â£2.10 (Not as good as the bloke on Cricinfo’s IRC who put had Â£2 at 150/1 though!)
It ebbed and flowed, as befits a game of this stature, until 7 were needed from the final over – to be bowled by Jason Gillespie. And, extraordinarily, Aftab Ahmed smashed Gillespie’s first ball over mid-wicket for six – only the second in the match to all but seal the win. They won with a scampered, desperate, excitable single the next ball – and Ponting didn’t know where to look. For the previous 7 overs, or thereabouts, he had been having conversations with his bowlers almost every ball. Unheard of – genuinely unheard of. Chris Cairns’ comments last year that his “granny could captain” the Australia team were simply not dismissed – everyone agreed with him. For once, we saw this giant of the game humbled, panicking and clearly a little embarrassed by his team’s performance. For years, we have seen them act machine-like (McGrath is often referred to as being “metronomic”) – a slick, professional well oiled machine had been reduced to a side not dissimilar to the English in the 90s: sloppy, confusingly-below-par and gutted.
Where does this leave them now? Well, Ponting admitted the panic-button was not far off being pushed – and Darren Lehmann admitted the button would already have been pressed, somewhere in the middle of Bangladesh’s innings. Most other sides wouldn’t receive this amount of coverage of 3 defeats: but Australia aren’t “most other sides,” they are one of the greatest teams in sport who today were humbled by the worst. David really did conquer Goliath, and 150 million Bangladeshis and one Englishman will never forget it.