ODI series preview: Bangladesh v Australia


Ridiculous the scheduling may be, and while the cricket-watching public battle to fight off their World Cup hangover with the start of the IPL, this series will at least be very significant for both of the teams involved.

<b>Overview</b><br>As nonsensical as it may sound, Australia arrived home after the World Cup for three days of rest before repacking their bags and jetting back to the sub-continent for a three-match ODI contest against Bangladesh.

Ridiculous the scheduling may be, and while the cricket-watching public battle to fight off their World Cup hangover with the start of the IPL, this series will at least be very significant for both of the teams involved.

After captaining Australia for a record 228 ODIs, Ricky Ponting finds himself a rank-and-file player for the first time since 2002.

Michael Clarke and his deputy Shane Watson will take over the leadership reins, and the three one-dayers in Dhaka therefore represent the beginning of a new era in Australian cricket.

It's set to be a comparatively gentle initiation into captaincy for Clarke, with the eyes of the cricketing world elsewhere and the Tigers not likely to pose too much trouble to the touring Aussies. That potentially leaves the 30-year-old with an ideal chance to iron out Ponting's place in both the batting order and a changing team dynamic.

Beyond just the leadership there have been other changes to the Australian ranks, with Shaun Tait having announced his retirement from the ODI game and Jason Krejza replaced by the fit-again Xavier Doherty as the first-choice spinner. David Hussey, meanwhile, is not part of the squad as he stays at home for the birth of his first child.

It is in the bowling ranks where Australia continue to be short on options and much will depend on the performance of lone specialist spinner Doherty on a slow and low track in Dhaka. Tait's retirement, meanwhile, has opened the door to uncapped 20-year-old fast bowler James Pattinson, who, with just six first-class games under his belt, is a key part of Australia's plan to grow a more effective bowling attack for the future.

The series will not, however, be all about the tourists. The three one-dayers will be extremely important for Bangladesh as the Tigers attempt to wash away the hurtful memory of a disappointing World Cup campaign on home turf.

For coach Jamie Siddons – in charge since October 2007 – the series takes on extra significance because it is his last chance to stake a claim for an extension to his contract, which expires in June.

The Tigers will be boosted by the return of injury-prone former skipper Mashrafe Mortaza, who will bring experience and a calming influence to the home dressing room. Mortaza's dodgy knees and the leadership ability of Shakib Al Hasan mean that the incumbent will continue to captain the team despite the World Cup hiccups, which saw Bangladesh twice bowled out for less than 100.

The home team's batting frailties have necessarily been addressed after <I>those</i> scores of 58 against the West Indies and 78 against South Africa, with Junnaid Siddique and perennial underachiever Mohammad Ashraful both cut from the squad and sent off to South Africa with the 'A' side instead.

Alok Kapali, whose last ODI came in September 2008, returns in an attempt to bolster the middle order, while 24-year-old Shuvagoto Hom, with a first-class average of 61, is an exciting addition to the Tigers batting ranks.

A plethora of slow-bowling options led by the left-arm spin of Shakib and Abdur Razzak will also, in the conditions, provide a major challenge to an Australia batting line-up with an apparent weakness against quality spin bowling.

<b>Key Players</b><br><i>Bangladesh:</i> After a disappointing World Cup on both a personal level and as captain, <b>Shakib Al Hasan</b> will be determined to prove a point to Bangladesh's passionate cricket public. The world's top-ranked ODI all-rounder has a massive heart, a calm head and enough ability to pose the tourists problems.

<i>Australia:</i> <b>Xavier Doherty</B> will shoulder a large amount of responsibility and the left-armer is assured his full 10 overs every time. One can't help but think, however, that <b>Ricky Ponting</b> will be the man to stand out with a bucket-load of runs in the three games. Coming off a pressure ton against India in the World Cup, the unshackled former skipper showed further signs of form by hitting 69 in Australia's warm-up game on Thursday.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head ODI Results</b><br>September 2008: Third ODI: Australia won by 73 runs in Darwin<br>September 2008: Second ODI: Australia won by eight wickets in Darwin<br>August 2008: First ODI: Australia won by 180 runs in Darwin<br>Mar 2007: World Cup: Australia won by 10 wickets in Antigua<br>April 2006: Third ODI: Australia won by nine wickets in Fatullah

<b>Prediction</b><br>The conditions combined with the tourists' perceived vulnerability against spin – and only one specialist spinner, weigh heavily in the home side's favour and Bangladesh will be desperate to cause at least one upset against the team that remain the number one-ranked ODI side in the world. Change, however, tends to do sporting side's a large amount of good, initially at least, and <B>Australia</B> should have enough firepower anyway to clinch a three-nil series win.

<b>Squads</b><br><i>Bangladesh:</i> Shakib Al Hasan (captain), Tamim Iqbal (vice-captain), Mashrafe Mortaza, Imrul Kayes, Shahriar Nafees, Raqibul Hasan, Alok Kapali, Shuvagoto Hom, Mushfiqur Rahim (wickekeeper), Mohammad Mahmudullah, Abdur Razzak, Suhrawadi Shuvo, Rubel Hossain and Shafiul Islam.

<i>Australia:</i> Michael Clarke (captain), Shane Watson (vice-captain), Brad Haddin (wicketkeeper), Ricky Ponting, Cameron White, Mike Hussey, Callum Ferguson, Tim Paine (wicketkeeper), Steve Smith, Mitchell Johnson, John Hastings, Brett Lee, Xavier Doherty, James Pattinson.

<b>Fixtures</b><br>First ODI in Dhaka on April 9<br>Second ODI in Dhaka on April 11<br>Third ODI in Dhaka on April 13

<b>Douglas Saxby</b>