A brutal century from Mitchell Marsh has guided Australia’s record run chase in a comprehensive victory over Bangladesh, for their seventh victory in succession at the World Cup.
Marsh’s unbeaten 177 off just 132 balls, featuring 17 fours and nine sixes, made short work of an imposing 8/306 set by the Tigers, as together with half-centuries from David Warner (53) and the returning Steve Smith (63 not out), the target was whittled down with 32 balls to spare, to ease any Australian concerns should they be required to bat second in a looming semi-final showdown with South Africa in Kolkata next week.
The Western Australia’s raw power was summed up late in his innings after toe-ending an attempted heave down the ground off seamer Mustafizur Rahman having been deceived by a slower ball, only for Najmul Hossain Shanto at long off to be unable to keep the ball from crossing the boundary rope.
Keen to dominate the Bangladeshi spinners in particular, Marsh was unable to match Glenn Maxwell’s glorious double-century against Afghanistan earlier in the week, but it is still the sixth-highest by an Australian man in ODI cricket, and the third-best at a World Cup behind Maxwell and Warner’s 178 against Afghanistan at the 2015 tournament.
Speaking after the match, Marsh, who missed Australia’s clash with England after heading home due to the passing of his grandfather, was thrilled with his display of aggression after a series of more sedate knocks mid-tournament, while hoping his century has given comfort to his family back in Perth amid a tough time.
“[I] probably had a few games in the middle of the tournament where I lost my intent,” he said.
“It was really good to learn quickly and back myself. I am probably going to fail a few times but hopefully I come up more than I don’t.
“I’m sure my Nana and mum will be watching at home, so hopefully it has put a little smile on her face. My pop was a great man and they celebrated his life yesterday afternoon and I am sure they had a couple of beers too.
“Nice to be able to perform for the family, but good to get a win.”
Captain Pat Cummins was just as delighted with the all-rounder’s explosive innings, describing Marsh as a ‘scary prospect’ heading into the knockout stages.
“I thought even more impressed than the hundred was the way he finished off the innings,” he said.
“The tempo for the whole innings was something that’s sustainable – he played beautifully.”
Marsh’s only ropey moment in an otherwise flawless performance was four consecutive dot balls while on 99 as he tried and failed to clear the infield to bring up his second ton of the tournament; while for Australia, the only blips came when Travis Head was bowled for 10 in the early stages and when Warner departed for 53 in slightly controversial circumstances.
Warner had clipped Mustafizur straight to Shanto at mid-on and immediately walked off furious with the shot, failing to notice the fielder had, in his haste to throw the ball into the air in celebration, lost his grip on it, in a scene reminiscent of Herschelle Gibbs’ famous drop of Steve Waugh at the 1999 World Cup as well as Ben Stokes’ shelling of Smith in this year’s Ashes series.
While Shanto clearly had more control than either of those examples, commentator and former Australian great Ricky Ponting was adamant a closer look should have been instigated by the third umpire, which never arrived.
“Warner’s turned his back and walked away – it was chipped straight to mid-on, but the fieldsman’s taken it, and in the act of trying to throw the ball in the air, it has come out of his hands!” Ponting exclaimed on the ICC’s international broadcast feed.
“In it goes – he’s taken onto it long enough, definitely got control, but – interesting. Will that be given out?”
The dismissal left Australia 2/132 to start the 23rd over, still needing nearly 200 runs for victory, but Marsh and Smith ensured it wouldn’t prove decisive, with Smith in particular looking keen to retain his spot over the in-form Marnus Labuschagne by showing his aggression from the outset.
A powerful slog-swept six off spinner Nasum Ahmed saw him race to 27 off just 26 balls to quickly bring the required run rate down to below six per over; content to safely accumulate from there saved for a heaved boundary down the ground to bring up the winning runs, the 34-year old’s unbeaten 63 should secure him a semi-final berth if his spot was in any doubt – especially with Labuschagne unable to prove his case.
The 307 hunted down is a new benchmark successful run chase for Australia at a World Cup, beating the 292 chase against Afghanistan mere days ago – this one, though, was far more clinical.
With the ball, the semi-finalists have a little more to ponder: while Adam Zampa was again superb with figures of 2/32 from his 10 overs to continue his excellent tournament, the absence of the rested Maxwell and Mitchell Starc enabled Bangladesh to dominate the early proceedings.
Looking to replace the Victorian’s economical off-spin as a fifth bowling option, Cummins turned to Marsh, Travis Head and Marcus Stoinis to fill the void, with Marsh (0/48 off four overs) and Stoinis (0/45 from five) particularly expensive.
After conceding 13 runs from his first over including a no-ball, inclusion Sean Abbott looked set to have a difficult day on his World Cup debut, but the New South Welshman fought back hard after breaking a 75-run opening stand to take a return catch and remove Tanzid Hasan off a leading edge.
Abbott would return later in the innings to have dangerous all-rounder Mehidy Hasan Miraz deceived by a slower ball and spooning a catch to Cummins at cover, as part of a final over in which he conceded just three runs to the wildly swinging Bangladeshi tail, inflicting a simple run-out of Nasum Ahmed for good measure.
His figures of 2/61 off 10 overs were enough to at least force a dilemma for selectors over whether to return to the mercurial but struggling Starc for the semi-final, or even whether to name the all-rounder at number seven ahead of Stoinis or Cameron Green.
It was Zampa’s latest mix of guile and drift, as well as Labuschagne’s brilliance in the field, that prevented Bangladesh from capitalising on a strong platform that left them 2/170 midway through the 37th over.
Acting captain Shanto was the first to be caught short, taking on the Queenslander’s rocket arm from backward square leg to Josh Inglis and failing; finisher Mahmudulluh would also regret chancing a quick single in Labuschagne’s vicinity when his three-six 32 was ended by a direct hit running in from cover.
The leg-spinner, though, had already applied the breaks to the Tigers’ innings: introduced after 12 overs with Bangladesh 1/83 in perfect batting conditions, Zampa conceded just six from his first four overs, the scoring pressure telling on opener Litton Das as he heaved to Labuschagne at long-on looking to break the stranglehold.
Conceding just three boundaries in his 10-over spell, Zampa’s 22 wickets is just one behind Muttiah Muralitharan’s 2007 record for the most by a spinner at a single World Cup, a testament to his brilliant recovery from a poor start to the tournament against India and the Proteas.
With a semi-final and clash with South Africa both set in stone already, Cummins was content to experiment with his bowling attack, the economical Hazlewood given just seven overs and himself only eight as Stoinis and Abbott were given finishing responsibilities with the ball.
“I don’t think we were at our sharpest in the first innings, but we thought it was a really good wicket,” the captain said after the match.
“I thought the way a couple of guys clawed back at the end got it to a total where we thought we could chase.
“All 15 players have played this tournament now, and you feel like you could pick any 15 of them. We’ll get up to Kolkata and reassess, but there might be a few selection headaches.”
With a seventh consecutive win safely secured, Cummins is confident his team will head into the knockout stages in tip-top form, and that the confidence borne of successful run chases against Afghanistan and Bangladesh will hold them in good stead.
“Even some of those games when we weren’t at our best, we still found a way to win,” he said.
“Chasing 300 was something new for this tournament – outside of Maxy’s [Maxwell] innings last week, but it feels like everything’s starting to click together.”