Symonds lifts Australia back to high ground

Bangladesh 139 Australia 140-0 (Australia win by 10 wickets)
Click to follow
The Independent Online

That, Australia were undoubtedly saying, will teach you to mess with us, sonny. Bangladesh were treated dismissively yesterday, cast aside like so much flotsam and jetsam, which was what everybody expected in the first place.

What a resumption of normal service it was. The world champions bowled out their conquerors of a week earlier for 139, taking the last eight wickets for 26 runs in 71 balls and the last five for two in 18. They proceeded to knock off the required runs in 19 overs without remotely looking like losing a wicket. The match lasted a total of 54.2 overs.

The contrast with the scenes of last weekend could not have been starker. Then, in one of the most unexpected of all sporting upsets, Bangladesh had made 250 to win, defying Australia's odds of 500-1 on. The streets of Chittagong would have been less raucous last night. To add to their woes, their coach, Dav Whatmore, flew to Australia yesterday to be at the side of his desperately ill father.

There was never the slightest chance that Bangladesh would win again. Australia were stung by the events in Cardiff (how the rest of the world had laughed) and had several points to make in reasserting their position as the best side in the world.

Again they won the toss and this time they did not make the haughty mistake of batting first under cloud cover. They wanted to nail the opposition quickly. There was the other significant difference between Cardiff and Manchester: Andrew Symonds was playing.

He had been stood down a week ago after an illicit night on the tiles immediately before the match and was then banned for the next game. But he returned against England on Thursday and scored 73 from 81 balls to salvage Australia's innings. Yesterday he won the Man of the Match award again, this time for his bowling. He took a career-best 5 for 18 in 7.2 overs with flighted, turning off spin.

Symonds' colleagues were miffed at his antics in Wales, feeling that he had broken a close team bond. Presumably, he can now consider himself fully rehabilitated. If he felt he owed them, the debt would seem to have been paid. They might even be able to joke about what Symonds will do with his champagne award.

On Thursday in Durham, when the questioning about his transgression became too persistent for the liking of Ricky Ponting, he intervened by saying ill-temperedly: "Does anyone care we have won a match tonight?"

This has been a swift turnaround for both Symonds, re-emphasising that he is one of the world's great one-day players, and for Australia. It is starting to look as if the decision to make fun of the tourists while they were losing a few one-dayers, against England, Bangladesh and Somerset, might have been the right one. It might not be happening again in a hurry.

The facts are that Australia have had their wake-up call and England must never nod off for a second if they are to get anything out of the rest of this summer. Each match assumes fresh importance and a win for England at Edgbaston on Tuesday, or in the NatWest Series final at Lord's next Saturday, might refuel self-belief.

By now everybody should recognise that Australia can still play cricket to an extraordinarily high standard. They did not, however, quite have everything their own way yesterday and provided some more evidence that their bowling is vulnerable if it is attacked in the right fashion.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in Brett Lee's sixth over. He had again bowled extremely quickly with brutal late swing and had taken two wickets. Javed Omar walked before the umpire could signal his lbw verdict. Tushar Imran edged a shorter one wide to Adam Gilchrist.

But the audaciously smiling Mohammad Ashraful decided that Lee had to be taken on. In a remarkable over he top-edged a six to square leg, was caught off a no ball at mid-off and then top-edged another six, this time not quite getting as much purchase on it and seeing it fly high over the wicketkeeper.

In all, 20 came from the over and Lee was immediately removed from the attack. Maybe that was the plan but the point was that he was despatched. Ashraful smiled coyly. He went on to make his third half-century in a row following his marvellous 100 in Cardiff and rapid-fire 93 against England in Nottingham. This effort was much more sedate but it was all Bangladesh had to offer.

Symonds' pace or lack of it was altogether to their disliking and he also took a stunning low, diving return catch to dismiss Ashraful. Bangladesh simply subsided.

The question was how quickly Australia could win. Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden matched each other stroke for violent stroke. It was the team's third 10-wicket one-day win and put in mind the time in 2003 when the same pair knocked off 118 in 12.3 overs to overhaul England.

Having turned it round so spectacularly, Australia must have thought all was back on track towards the Ashes. Not quite. News of Shane Warne's separation from his wife, Simone, broke during the day. Ponting said: "It's awful to be separated from your wife. As far as it being a distraction, hopefully not. It's obviously a tough time for him and hopefully he can deal with it and cope and it's something that won't hang around too long."