Big picture: Australia look to fine-tune against Bangladesh ahead of semi-final
Before Glenn Maxwell unleashed the most surreal batting imaginable, Australia appeared headed for a hefty defeat against Afghanistan and almost getting into must-win territory against Bangladesh. That nervous scenario was alleviated by Maxwell, who powered Australia into a semi-final against South Africa. But Australia won’t be treating this as a dead rubber and will field their strongest available line-up for the clash in Pune.
Even though Australia have won six consecutive matches, after such a rocky start, their form has been patchy at times. They’ve been relying on individual brilliance – none more so than Maxwell’s tour de force – rather than a collective.
Australia still faces selection issues in a bid to find the right balance. They have several players struggling for consistency as Australia look to produce a more complete performance against an opponent out of semi-final contention.
But Bangladesh are in a fight to be among the top eight teams to qualify for the Champions Trophy. An upset will go a long way towards this and notching consecutive victories will also ensure a strong finish for Bangladesh, whose tournament hopes nosedived after beating Afghanistan in their opener.
But there is a feeling that this is more than the end of their campaign amid off-field rumblings. Bangladesh are dealing with several exits from their dressing room. Fast-bowling coach Allan Donald and computer analyst Shrinivas Chandrasekaran have announced that they won’t be renewing their contracts. In Donald’s case, there is controversy as the BCB sought an explanation from him after he criticized captain Shakib Al Hasan’s appeal in the drama over Angelo Mathews’ timed out dismissal.
More coaching staff changes are likely, but Bangladesh will be hoping the off-field turmoil does not affect them in their bid to finish a disappointing World Cup campaign on a bright note.
Australia WWWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight: Mitchell Starc and Taskin Ahmed
Only Glenn McGrath and Muthiah Muralidaran have taken more World Cup wickets than left-arm quick Mitchell Starc, who starred in the 2015 and 2019 editions. But Starc has struggled to find his top form in this tournament with 10 wickets at 43.90 and an economy rate of 6.55. He has taken just five wickets in his last five games culminating with 1 for 70 from nine overs against Afghanistan, where Starc couldn’t trouble the batters early and he was torn apart at the death in a ragged display. If Australia are to win a sixth title, Starc will have to rediscover his best and he has a golden opportunity to turn around his form against a Bangladesh batting order susceptible to left-arm pace.
Quick Taskin Ahmed finally bowled well in the World Cup after several ordinary outings. Even though he finished wicketless for the second straight match, his pace was up and his wobble seam delivery was on show against Sri Lanka. He bowled a strong opening spell, and then delivered tight bowling in the middle and at the end. He conceded just 39 runs in 10 overs to be clearly his team’s most economical bowler. Taskin is known as the bowling pack leader, so it was important that he bounced back after indifferent performances.
Team news: Smith set to return from vertigo, Shakib ruled out
Steven Smith is likely to return after missing the match against Afghanistan due to vertigo, while Maxwell faces a fitness test after severely cramping during his herculean innings. If they are available to play, Australia will have a fully fit squad to choose from for the first time this tournament. Marnus Labuschagne or Marcus Stoinis will likely make way for Smith depending on what type of balance the team management leans towards. Labuschagne is a similar type of batter to Smith and has been a consistent scorer in the tournament although he is striking sedately at 77. Stoinis has generally struggled, but provides alluring big-hitting and all-round skills much like Maxwell.
Australia (probable): 1 David Warner, 2 Travis Head, 3 Mitchell Marsh, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Josh Inglis (wk), 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Marcus Stoinis/Marnus Labuschagne, 8 Pat Cummins (capt), 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood
Captain Shakib Al Hasan will miss this game with a fractured left index finger and he is likely to be replaced by allrounder Mahedi Hasan or left-arm spinner Nasum Ahmed. Anamul Haque, Shakib’s replacement in the squad, might be in line to replace opener Tanzid Hasan, who has made just one half-century from eight innings in the tournament.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Litton Das, 2 Tanzid Hasan/Anamul Haque, 3 Najmul Hossain Shanto (capt), 4 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 5 Mahmudullah, 6 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 7 Nasum Ahmed/Mahedi Hasan, 8 Towhid Hridoy, 9 Taskin Ahmed, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Shoriful Islam
The Maharashtra Cricket Association surface has been batting-friendly with South Africa and England posting scores over 330 after batting first in the last two matches at the ground. But seamers have also done well on a pitch offering bounce and carry.
Warm and sunny conditions are expected on Saturday with a maximum temperature of 32 degrees Celsius forecast.
“It will be based on the surface. If we think that we have a surface that is challenging in a certain area then we can shift in one direction. The more bowling options that we have we feel we can cover in terms of the opposition batting .”
Coach Andrew McDonald on Australia’s selection decisions.