Vol. 5 Num 679 Thu. April 27, 2006  

Australia Tour of Bangladesh

Contrasting captains

Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar showed a rare quality of consistency with three half-centuries in a row but understandably he was not in a position to rest on his achievement after his side's 67-run defeat in the second one-day match against Australia at Fatullah yesterday.

In recent times, the Bangladesh skipper has hardly been seen in a dejected mood during post-match briefings as he always found some positives in his side's performances despite defeats. But it was not the case on Wednesday.

Playing 'positive cricket' has been a popular slogan for the Tigers but it was hardly reflected in the second one-dayer, especially Dav Whatmore's batting strategy of sending Alok Kapali after out-of-form Khaled Mashud at a crucial stage raised many eyebrows.

The Bangladesh vice-captain and wicketkeeper has been going through a long bad patch and the way he negotiated some juicy and short deliveries by Brad Hogg was not only surprising but also effectively dashed any chance for the home side to chase down the Australian total of 250.

Many believed that sending a specialist middle-order batsman like Kapali at number seven was suicidal especially when Bangladesh, struggling at 70-4, needed to maintain a good run-rate.

Bashar faced a volley of questions on the issue but he said that he was more concerned with his top-order batting which appeared to have returned to its old form.

"I am upset and worried with the way we lost too many wickets in the early stage. We did it in the first match and repeated in the second. I think this was the reason we lost our way," said Bashar.

"It could have been better if we had sent Alok (Kapali) early. But holding Alok back was a management decision as we wanted to keep one batsman late in the order so that someone could bat through, if required," explained Bashar.

"Mashud went in early because we lost quick wickets. We wanted to be flexible in the match. If we didn't lose wickets early, we would have sent Alok ahead," he added.

When Australia set up a 251-run target, many recalled the Cardiff memory where the Tigers chased down Australian's 249 but in reality, Bangladesh were without both their match-winners, Mohammad Ashraful and Aftab Ahmed, during the English summer.

"The last minute omission of Aftab definitely affected us. Ashraful might or might not have scored and nobody can control these things in cricket.

"Batting in the second-half wasn't that easy on this wicket, unlike the situation in Cardiff. Also, losing too many early wickets forced us on the back foot," Bashar compared.

"I think we were struggling to use this wicket to our benefit. Symonds and Clarke batted really well and we failed to take wickets when we needed them," he added.

Australia captain Ricky Ponting expressed his satisfaction over the series victory with one match in hand.

"It is always nice to win any series. We had a lot of pressure in both the games. Today it was pleasing to see that Andrew (Symonds) and Michael (Clarke) play very well in tough situation and we are looking forward to the other game," said Ponting.

"We got off to a flying start and then lost a few wickets. So there are few more concerns and we hope it would be rectified in the third game.

"The innings by Andrew was a sign of his maturity, and how far he has come in this game. Michael didn't play a typical knock too," he opined.

Man-of-the-match Symonds, who missed the Cardiff game against Bangladesh due to disciplinary action, said that it was difficult for him to play his natural game on this surface.

"It was difficult to play a free-flowing game. It was a working-class day.

"Clarke and I bat a lot together so we got our heads together," said Symonds, who was dismissed for a first-ball duck in the first game in Chittagong.

MAN ON FIRE: Australia batsman Andrew Symonds is overjoyed at reaching his century in the second ODI against Bangladesh at the Fatullah Cricket Stadium on Wednesday. PHOTO: Anisur Rahman