The West Indies having won overwhelmingly against Scotland at Leicester, Australia needed not only to overhaul a target of 179 set by an exuberant Bangladesh but to do so in very quick time, as little as 16 overs if possible. Given their moderate form to date, it seemed an unlikely prospect, but in the event they were not that far away, driven ultimately by Tom Moody's 29-ball 56 to complete the job inside 20.
It does not alter the fact that Australia must beat the West Indies at Old Trafford on Sunday if their World Cup is not to reach an early and humiliating end but, should their respective run-rates be the deciding factor, at least they will not be looking at an unrealistically wide margin: 15 overs or three wickets should be enough.
Moody's performance was enough to clinch a man of the match award for which he had been in pole position after the under-used all-rounder had justified his selection with the best of his side's bowling, returning 3 for 25 off 10 overs. On a wicket that Steve Waugh, the Australian captain, reckoned to be the best he had seen so far, only Moody and Shane Warne of Australia's five bowlers emerged with no question marks.
In contrast, Glenn McGrath, who seems a man at odds with himself as he struggles to meet the high standards he sets, and Damien Fleming again looked out of sorts. Waugh insisted all his bowlers "did OK" against a side he credited with being "not the worst" batting line-up, but conceded his whole team needs to find 10 per cent more to continue their progress.
"We always knew it would be a tough group to get through but we were planning on beating New Zealand and Pakistan, so we hoped it would not come down to one game," Waugh said. "But we are still a good side and I still believe we can go a long way in this tournament."
On a gloriously sunny day, the carnival ingredient of this match emanated largely from one section of the Riverside ground, the one occupied by Bangladeshi supporters determined to celebrate their presence in the tournament, safe in the knowledge that they have been honourable participants and the most successful of the three minnows.
On the field, their heroes only enhanced their reputation, recovering from an uncertain start to give their opponents something worthwhile to chase. Minhazul Abedin's unbeaten 53 was the highlight but his attractive strokeplay was matched by that of the emerging 21-year-old, Mehrab Hossain, whose progress was only ended by a fine Ricky Ponting catch.
Moody apart, the other important morale boost for Australia was provided by Adam Gilchrist, whose batting form had been as a worry to Waugh. Before yesterday, Gilchrist had managed only 20 runs in three innings, so his 63 off 39 balls represented a big improvement.
"We knew we had to score quickly," Waugh said. "At first, we had our eye on getting the runs inside 30 overs, which would have taken us past New Zealand's run-rate. But after getting to 78 for 0 in 10 we revised it to 20 overs. The bowling could still be a bit better, but we thrive on big games."Reuse content