Zimbabwe vs Bangladesh last over.

Oh, there was one ODI played today, the 10th place play off… the nice thing is that it went down to the wire. Zimbabwe needed 17 off the last over and…. they did it!
Good effort from Taylor and Mupariwa to get Zimbabwe over the line.

Andrew “Roy” Symonds starts repaying what he owes.

Andrew Symonds’ big night out on the day before an ODI against Bangladesh in 2005 will go down in infamy in Australian cricket lore, and probably will be celebrated in Bangladesh for a while to come as well. But he did redeem himself somewhat with a match-winning century in Dhaka to win the 2nd ODI for Australia yesterday.

It must be said, in all honesty, that at the moment he looks like he’s been on an even bigger bender then his 2005 effort. The dreadlocks look scruffy and the beard makes him look like a vagabond. At the moment, if any Australian cricketer is crying out for a makeover by the folks from ‘queer eye for the straight guy’, it is Symonds.

He may look like a drunken derelict, but his 5th ODI century for Australia was a most sober and abstemious effort. He came in with a bit of a crisis happening and Australia struggling after losing 3 for 10 after Adam Gilchrist got interrupted just as he was really warming up. That brought to mind his innings in Sydney against Sri Lanka, where Chaminda Vaas roughed up the Australian top order. Starting this time at 3 for 65, he combined with Michael Clarke to compose a brilliant but ungainly knock.

It’s one thing to score a glittering century on an easy paced but reliable SCG wicket; this wicket at Dhaka was simply diabolical. It was slower then a Madagascar sloth and deader then WG Grace. He came out wearing a helmet but there was no way Mashrafe Mortaza was going to get a bouncer to get beyond rib high at best. Pitch preparation is a black art at the best of times, but whoever was in charge of this one should hang his head in shame. Bangladesh may be poor, but if they can afford to put on a gloriously manicured outfield, there’s no excuse for a pitch like this.

So once the fast men finished their spells with the new ball, we had the rather dreary sight of spinners bowling and the batsmen working them over for singles. It is this sort of cricket that drove the ICC in frustration to introduce monstrosities like power-plays and supersubs. It is hardly the batsmen at fault in situations like this; in Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds, Australia had two of its most positive minded batsmen at the crease. But Clarke only scored 2 boundaries in his 54.

Credit must go to the bowlers, especially the redoubtable Mohammed Rafique. The veteran spinner has clearly been the pick of Bangladesh’s bowlers right through this Australian tour. Of course, it does help his cause that as a slow left arm spinner, he is a member of the spin caste that has troubled Australians the most over recent years. Daniel Vettori is another that springs to mind.

So Symonds played Rafique with respect, picking him off, working him over for the singles, and waiting for the loose ball from the other end. These were not in short supply once Bashar had to face the chore of juggling to find ten overs from his ‘fifth’ bowler, but again the conditions conspired, and the lack of bounce clearly frustrated Symonds. However, instead of losing his head and his innings, he managed to keep his composure, and his wicket, and in the end his century came off 122 balls; slow by his standards but fast in the conditions.

Bashar perhaps missed a trick; he seemed content to allow Australia to pick off singles, and I wonder when a captain is going to be bold enough to try keeping his inner fielders close enough to the batsmen to make singles hard work. It could have paid dividends.

But it was never tried, so they tied Australia down for a while but they could not get them out though, and a late burst saw Australia through to 250. And once the Australian fast men knocked off the top order of Bangladesh’s batting, that was it as a game. Habibul Bashar played a good captain’s knock to ensure Bangladesh had some respectability with their reply of 183, but Symonds was the man who made the difference. And a good thing too, because against this opponent, Symonds owed his country a match-winning innings or three.

Not quite the great escape, but that was actually a very good Test match.

So Australia escaped, mainly through the remarkable deeds of Ricky Ponting, once again demonstrating that he is the peerless Australian batsman of his age, a great age of Australian batsmanship.

This was his 31st century, and his first against Bangladesh. A lot of batsmen have scored a lot of easy runs against Bangladesh, but this was no easy century; I can think of almost a dozen that Ponting has scored that were easier; two against West Indies in Brisbane, and his second against South Africa in Sydney spring to mind just in this latest Australian season. This was close to being a masterpiece in fact.

It wasn’t quite perfect; he was dropped on 97, a difficult chance to Mashrafe Mortaza. It was watchful, thoughtful and dripping with purpose and energy. Ponting is no great shakes as a captain, but he’s one of the all-time great batsmen at the height of his powers, and he is a delight to watch.

But just as Ponting can be credited with saving a lost cause, Bangladesh can be faulted for losing it. In his Verdict for Cricinfo, Osman Samiuddin puts the case for the prosecution:

Even if we accept that Australia were tired – this was their 11th Test since October – five days ago nobody expected them to nervously chase just under a hundred on the last day with five wickets in hand. Five days ago, most expected the last day to be a day off. In this context alone, the performance is remarkable. But while everyone celebrates, Bangladesh might choose some serious contemplation instead. Should Bangladesh be happy they pushed Australia so close? Or should they grumble about having missed the opportunity to win it?

Their second-innings collapse – after Dav Whatmore had said he was hoping they wouldn’t do just that – will gnaw at them. Habibul Bashar has already repented his sin of a dismissal and if they were smart, then Aftab Ahmed, Rajin Saleh, Mohammad Rafique and Khaled Mashud, would follow suit. More than just a hundred runs separates chasing 300-plus and 400-plus.

And though Steve Waugh claimed he never told nobody about dropping World Cups, surely his successor Ricky Ponting could have told Mashrafe Mortaza that he had just dropped history through his fingers. Australia needed 24 when Ponting miscued a pull with only Stuart Clark and MacGill to come. And Mohammad Rafique might curse the pitch for offering too much spin when he beat Ponting’s outside edge. Ultimately, will it be any consolation that, like Multan, they should not have lost this Test? Or solace in Ponting’s words that, “They’ve played very, very well. For them to score 355 on the first day was a terrific effort. They certainly have come a long way.” Just one of the many intriguing after-effects of this Test will be how the home side now responds in Chittagong.

Australia have played eleven Tests since October and they’ve won ten of them. You don’t get a chance to beat Australia very often at all, so when the cricketing fates flow your way, you just have to take them. England did that last year to win the Ashes, but consider this. Since Ricky Ponting became captain of Australia in early 2004, Australia have lost just three Test matches.

It may well be a long time until Bangladesh get another chance to beat Australia and while they deserve commendation for pushing Australia as close as they did, which after all is way above what we expected, in the long run they will rue this missed opportunity.

Spooked Cricketers

Wooooooooooooooooooooo

Gus Fraser’s running a story that the Aussies are spooked – or rather they’ve been spooked! Interesting story/aside, especially so due to Bangladesh having also been visited by ghostly visions in white (and I’m not talking about England’s Test bowlers!) last week.

The Australians are staying at Lumley Castle which, according to their website, is “no ordinary hotel.” I bet Shane Watson agrees – he was so spooked he spent the night on Brett Lee’s floor! But this little excerpt is the best:

Belinda Dennett, Australia’s media officer, also had a night she will never forget. “My phone went off in the middle of the night and I looked out of the window,” she said. “I knew I had closed the blinds but they were open and I saw a procession of white people walking past. It was amazing, very scary. Then I went back to bed and the blind went up, and there was someone looking in through the window. I know I wasn’t dreaming because I wrote down a message from my phone and the time.”

Last week, it was said the Bangladeshis also had ghostly-goings-on:

“Apparently he [Habibul Bashar] rushed out and attacked the ghoul,” Paul Mandeir, the general manager of the Redworth Hall hotel in County Durham said.

“In the ensuing melee, he awoke several other guests.”

But this time it was not one of the many ghosts fabled to roam the hotel’s corridors.

The offending spook was Bangladesh’s fast bowler – and practical joker – Mashrafe Mortaza carrying a bed sheet and a tape recorder.

I appreciate the “win at all costs” mantra of professional cricket, and England have certainly been playing aggressive cricket lately – but this is taking it too far…:)