10 June 2005, Cardiff. Aftab Ahmed’s inside edge results in a sneaky single and Bangladesh defeats Australia on the back of a century from Mohammad Ashraful. The Bangladeshis are jubilant, the Australians are stunned.
14 years on, the two sides will meet once again on British soil. This time at Trent Bridge, Nottingham on Thursday, June 20. The atmosphere, though, is expected to be quite different. A Bangladesh win wouldn’t surprise the viewer; Australia continue to be a fine side but are not the invincible force they were back then.
Incredibly enough, since the 2015 World Cup, Bangladesh (1.3) have a better win-loss ratio than Australia (1.1) in ODIs. Despite that, Australia go into this match as favourites, on the back of the momentum acquired by winning 11 out of their last 12 matches.
Bangladesh, equally, will come into the game high on confidence, following victories over South Africa and the West Indies. Shakib Al Hasan’s form has been key to the Asian team’s success, with the all-rounder scoring back-to-back centuries at the World Cup. In fact, Shakib’s move to number three – at his own request -- is proving to be an inspired call, as he now averages 59.7 at that position.
Australia will be keen to remove Shakib early but that won’t be an easy task. The 32-year-old is yet to be dismissed for a score of less than 50 at this World Cup.
Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins are Australia’s two key weapons with the ball, and Aaron Finch’s best chance against Shakib is to get him in early while the pace duo is still bowling with the new ball.
If you take out Starc and Cummins, the other Australian bowlers are averaging 51 at a strike rate of 48.5 and an economy rate of 6.3 at this tournament. If the Bangladesh openers survive the early spells from Starc and Cummins, they could easily capitalise on this weakness of the support bowlers and score big.
With Australia expected to play a pace-heavy bowling attack, Shakib’s role becomes even more important as he is the only batsman in Bangladesh’s top six to have a higher average against pace than spin.
Despite being heavily reliant on Starc and Cummins, Finch has managed his bowling resources well in the middle overs -- so much so that Australia have picked the most wickets (28) between overs 11 to 40 in this World Cup. This could be the period where the game is decided, as Bangladesh has maintained a high run-rate (6.1) during these 30 overs in their last four matches. This sets up an intriguing contest between a side that takes wickets in the middle phase versus a side that scores well in that same period.
David Warner’s batting has been a big talking point at the World Cup. The Australian opener has notched up two fifties and a hundred, but his strike rate has been an area of concern. While Warner has a career ODI strike rate of 95.1, his strike rate in this tournament thus far is an unimpressive 77.
Bangladesh have used spin in the first 10 overs a fair deal in this World Cup (18 overs in four innings), but Australia’s left-right opening combination might see them stick to pace. Another reason Mashrafe Mortaza might think twice before using spin upfront is Finch’s form against the slower bowlers. In this tournament, the Colac-born batsman has a strike rate of 148.7 against spin.
With Marcus Stoinis who missed the last two matches due to a side strain, possibly returning to the team, we could see Adam Zampa back in action. The Australians did not field a specialist spinner in their last two games, preferring to play four pacers and rely on Glenn Maxwell for some line and length tweaks, but with Stoinis in the team they surely can do with just three frontline fast bowlers.
If Stoinis returns, it’ll be interesting to see if Australia drop Usman Khawaja or Shaun Marsh. The former, who was in terrific form as an opener earlier in the year, has struggled when he’s batted at number three. The Aussie think-tank might go with Marsh, considering him to be a better fit in the middle-order, thereby fixing Steve Smith’s spot at one-down. Smith, in fact, has a career average of 50+ at number three, and it’ll be beneficial for Australia if he bats there in all games.
If Stoinis is fit for this match, expect Zampa to return to the team at the expense of a pacer.
Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Steve Smith, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa.
After a superb win against West Indies, the Bangla Tigers are likely to be unchanged for this game.
Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Liton Das, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Mohammad Saifuddin, Mehidy Hasan, Mashrafe Mortaza (c), Mustafizur Rahman