ICC Men's ODI World Cup 2019
Spinner summoned to counter Bangladesh superstar
Australia A spinner brought in to help World Cup table-toppers prepare for in-form allrounder ahead of Thursday’s key clash
Louis Cameron in Nottingham
18 June 2019, 09:46 PM AEST
Australia are pulling out all stops to negate red-hot Bangladesh superstar Shakib al-Hasan, summoning left-arm spinner Ashton Agar to their training session two days out from a World Cup encounter at Trent Bridge.
Shakib, one of the greatest allrounders of the modern era, took a 10-wicket match haul in Bangladesh's historic Test victory against Australia two years ago.
He faces the Aussies again in form this time around, fresh off a match-winning unbeaten 124 from just 99 balls against West Indies on Monday.
A second ton of the tournament fired him to the top of the World Cup’s run-scoring charts and, more importantly, kept Bangladesh in the hunt for a semi-final berth.
Agar, Australia’s first-choice spinner on their limited-overs tour of the UK last year, was whisked away from Northampton where he's been preparing with the Australia A squad ahead of their upcoming one-day tour of England.
Wearing a bright orange ICC cap given to net bowlers, Agar bowled alongside squad members Nathan Lyon and Adam Zampa to the likes of Aaron Finch, David Warner and Steve Smith.
Indian wrist-spinning duo Pardeep Sahu and KK Jiyas had been travelling with the Australian World Cup squad as specialist net bowlers but have recently returned home.
While Agar is expected to feature in Australia A’s opening match against Northamptonshire on Thursday, his presence highlights Australia's willingness to leave no stone unturned in their preparation for a Bangladesh side with renewed hope of a top-four spot.
"(Shakib is) probably the world's best allrounder and a left-arm spinner," said coach Justin Langer.
"It was great of Ash to come down and great to have him here. This time last year he was in the Australian one-day side.
"One of our values is professionalism and (it's beneficial) to draw on someone like Ashton Agar to come in and give us a like for like (spinner)."
Bangladesh, who now sit fifth on the World Cup standings only three points behind Australia, have become a legitimate contender in major limited-overs tournaments, knocking England out of the 2015 World Cup and securing a quarter-final spot of their own.
They also recorded their first ever Test win over Australia in Dhaka in 2017.
While Shakib's crafty left-arm spin will pose a threat, it's his work with the bat that the Aussies may be most wary of.
Before his vital hand against the Windies, the 32-year-old posted scores of 64 against South Africa, 75 against New Zealand and then 121 against tournament favourites England.
The ICC's No.1 ranked ODI allrounder pulled and cut the West Indies bevy of fast bowlers with ease on Monday, the same combination who troubled Australia earlier in the tournament and reduced them to 4-38 following a short-pitched barrage.
He then declared he held no fear for the Aussie pace brigade, led by Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.
"We've been facing some of the best fast bowlers in the last four matches," said Shakib. "Every match - every team's got at least two bowlers who bowl 140 (kph)-plus, and we've been coping well.
"We're not worried about that because we played England. We played West Indies. Both the teams got 140, 150-plus bowlers.
"I think faced with all this, we just need to do our basics right. I think we're a skilled team and we are capable enough to counter those challenges.
"I've been batting well. I don't know if this is the best I have been batting or not, but so far it's going well and fingers crossed, hope it continues."
Shakib also went past 6,000 ODI runs against the Windies. No player who had also taken at least 200 ODI wickets when they passed that milestone has reached it fasted then the Bangladeshi, beating out the likes of Jacques Kallis and Shahid Afridi.
Speaking to cricket.com.au ahead of the World Cup, Australia assistant coach Ricky Ponting identified Shakib as Bangladesh's key player, warning how difficult he can be to bowl to given he "scores in slightly different areas".
"He’s a very strong squarer of the wicket," said Ponting. "He’s got a pretty weak grip so he tends to hit the ball really well to backward point and third man.
"When you talk about smarts and being clever, when he's got the ball in his hand, he certainly is that. I mean he’s never been a big turner of the ball, but he changes his pace up really well and looks to be really attacking.
"He uses the air more than most spinners do these days. Most spinners these days in white ball cricket will run in, just try and bowl the ball into the pitch and not give batsmen scoring opportunities, but he’s the other way.
"He’ll keep you in your crease for the first couple of balls and then really change the pace up, get the ball above your eye line and wait for the batsmen to take him on.
"He’s played for a long time now internationally and he's been involved in Big Bash, he's been involved in the IPL for the last six or seven seasons.
"If you go through that Bangladesh team, probably him and (opener) Tamim Iqbal are the guys you'll be looking out for in the World Cup."
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