Australia vs Pakistan | Monday 21 March | Bangalore | 16:00
Following a roller-coaster opening week in the Super 10 phase of the World T20, we get week two underway with a crucial match between Australia and Bangladesh.
Both teams have yet to record a win in this phase of the tournament, and defeat could prove disastrous for both camps. Can Bangladesh pull off the upset result or will Australia cruise to what will be a much-needed victory?
There seems to be a lot of indecision in and around the Australian camp at the minute, as was clearly underlined in their opening match against New Zealand. They picked two specialist spinners – Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar – on a turning wicket where they only bowled an over each. There were also questions around the dropping of Aaron Finch in favour of Shane Watson and Usman Khawaja. The latter two are both match winners in their own right, but Finch isn’t rated as the world’s number one T20 batsman for nothing.
Arguably the most bizarre call, however, came in the Australian’s run chase against the Black Caps. With 43 needed off 30 balls, Agar came in before the Aussie’s most dangerous finisher, James Faulkner. In fact, Faulkner only got to face his first ball in the second last over when 21 were required off 10 balls. The pressure proved too much for Faulkner to handle as he was dismissed by Mitchell McClenaghan, and with his dismissal, went Australia’s hops of winning the match.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Australian’s line up on Monday against a Bangladeshi side that will be smarting following bans handed out to Taskin Ahmed and Arafat Sunny for illegal bowling actions. Personally, I’d bring in Aaron Finch for Shane Watson. I feel that Finch offers you more in the way of raw belligerence than Watson at the top of the order. Being able to take the game away from Bangladesh in the power play overs is massively important, and there a few batsmen better than Finch to do just that.
Doing so will mean that they will lose Watson’s ability with the ball, however, there is more than enough cover in the Australian XI to make up for his absence. Nathan Coulter-Nile, Ashton Agar, Adam Zampa, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh and even Steve Smith can do the job with the ball; especially against a Bangladesh side who will be licking their wounds following an absolute hammering at the hands of Pakistan in their first Super 10 clash.
The Bangladeshi camp was rocked by news that they will more than likely be without their two best spinners for the remainder of the tournament following their loss to Pakistan. An independent assessment found that both Arafat Sunny and Taskin Ahmed were operating with illegal bowling actions. The two will be replaced in the squad by left-arm orthodox spinner Sawlain Sajib and the off-spinning allrounder Shuvagta Hom.
The Tigers would have come into this tournament brimming with confidence following their exploits in the Asia Cup where they were unlucky to lose in the final to India. Things look to be unravelling for the side though, with the bans imposed on their spinners as well as their hammering at the hands of a Pakistani side that they were widely expected to beat.
Having been set 202 to win the match, their batsmen crumbled beneath the pressure with only Shakib Al Hasan putting up any sort of meaningful resistance. They will need a massive performance from Tamim Iqbal if they’re going to beat the Australians on Monday afternoon. The opener has been in fine fettle of late, piling on the runs in the qualifying phase of the tournament.
Whether or not the two new spinners will be able to fill the void left by Sunny and Taskin remains to be seen. Personally, I don’t think they have the quality to keep a massively talented Australian top and middle order quiet in the middle overs, especially with the likes of Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja in the mix, both of whom are masterful players of spin.
Verdict: Usman Khawaja to top score for Australia at 5/2
Khawaja has looked at home on these slow, turning surfaces. He will be licking his lips at facing two relatively inexperienced spinners at the top of the order and is likely to cash in in the power play overs. Back him at 5/2.