Tigers catch Aussies off balance amid media spin

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The Independent Online

This has been a bad weekend for Australia - and their humiliating defeat against Bangladesh in Cardiff on Saturday was just part of it.

This has been a bad weekend for Australia - and their humiliating defeat against Bangladesh in Cardiff on Saturday was just part of it.

They were also forced to ban Andrew Symonds, one of their key limited-overs players, for the first two matches of the NatWest series after accusations of excessive partying. Then, having turned down the offer of a police escort through Bristol yesterday, they were delayed on their way to the County Ground by an hour. Having arrived just before 10 o'clock, the players ended up having to walk through the crowd to the dressing-rooms. Their warm-up was badly curtailed.

Finally, Shane Warne appeared in a Sunday tabloid "kiss and tell" tale. The Hampshire captain will not join the touring party until next month; Symonds, however joined a party of another variety, to celebrate the 24th birthday of his team-mate Shane Watson in Cardiff. Unfortunately, Symonds, who had celebrated his 30th birthday a week earlier, carried on partying a little longer than the tourists' rules permitted.

Rumours in Cardiff had it that Symonds had not returned to the hotel until 6.30 on Saturday morning. Other whispers were that he had returned at 3.30am, while reports in Australia claimed that during the warm-up before the Bangladesh match his team-mates could smell alcohol on his breath.

Whatever he did, it was enough to warrant the all-rounder being dropped. Cricket Australia increased his punishment by a further match - yesterday's, against England at Bristol.

"As a team under the players' 'Spirit of Cricket' pledge we pride ourselves on being good role models," the Australia captain, Ricky Ponting, said. "We take this sort of thing very seriously and I'm very disappointed with what has happened, as is Andrew."

Symonds said: "I know no one has to accept this, but I apologise to everyone for what I have done. I know it was the wrong thing and I'm very embarrassed." He is also poorer by around £3,200, having been docked his match fees.

Warne was out in London in April with his Hampshire team-mate Kevin Pietersen, who brought along his girlfriend and her friend, Laura Sayers. According to what Miss Sayers told the Sunday Mirror the four of them went back to Pietersen's London flat, where one thing led to another.

And if all that were not enough, the World Cup holders helped Bangladesh take their total of one-day wins to 10 from 108 matches.

The banning of Symonds could be viewed as a significant factor in the defeat, Australia's third in six days following their Twenty20 defeat to England on Monday and Wednesday's four-wicket loss to Somerset at Taunton. Symonds, who was born in Birmingham, has played in 116 one-day internationals, averaging 35 with the bat and taking 87 wickets.

But there were other factors. When England chose to field against Bangladesh at The Oval last Thursday there were those who said they should have got in some batting practice. But that smacks of arrogance. The point is to win the series.

Perhaps if Ponting had elected to field first the Australians would have been celebrating as big a win as England's 10-wicket triumph. As it was they lost three early wickets, and when Bangladesh batted they looked comfortable.

A nation burst into celebrations. Dhaka University students held an impromptu parade on campus while hundreds of revellers came out of their homes, waving the Bangladesh flag, chanting, dancing and singing.

The newspapers were predictably upbeat. "Tigers turn world upside down," wrote the Daily Star. In Australia, by contrast, there was only grim reality, the Age's response being typical. "Australian cricket sank to a new low in arguably the greatest upset in the sport's history," the paper wrote.

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