Martin Smith, at The Oval, London
Martin Smith, at The Oval, London
Smith, Warner cruising to win before rain hits, setting up a must-win clash with England
Sixteen minutes. Just 16 measly minutes.
That's all that stood between Australia and top spot in Group A as their seemingly cursed ICC Champions Trophy campaign was hit by yet another washout on Monday.
Steve Smith's side was just four overs short of reaching the 20 overs needed to constitute a match and a comfortable victory over Bangladesh at The Oval when the heavens opened at around 6.45pm local time having threatened to do so all day.
The rain eased and the covers were removed about an hour later before an 8.30pm resumption was announced. But it only served to tease the Australians as light rain started to fall again and it didn't relent, the contest abandoned to leave the two teams to split the points.
Australia were 1-83 from 16 overs in reply to Bangladesh's modest total of 182 when players left the field, well ahead of the revised score they required under the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method.
Essentially, they could have played out four maidens and even lost two more wickets before the 20 overs were up and still won the match.
But instead of picking up two points and moving to the top of their group, they now face the prospect of needing to beat tournament favourites England at Edgbaston on Saturday to avoid an early exit.
Keen observers will however suggest that Australia's campaign has thus far all evened out in the washout; while luck was against them today, it very much fell their way against New Zealand on Monday when they gained a point from a match that they looked likely to lose.
Regardless of their fortunes to date, the Aussies will keep a close eye on the result of New Zealand's two remaining Group A matches in Cardiff this week – against England tonight and Bangladesh on Friday – before they take on the hosts this weekend.
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Net run rate and the possibility of more rain in the Welsh capital this week complicates matters, but it seems likely that the Aussies will at least have to avoid defeat at Edgbaston on Saturday to progress to the semi-finals.
Three of Australia's four matches on this tour (a warm-up game against Pakistan and their two group matches) have been washed out and their fate will now be determined by the result in Birmingham.
It's a frustrating state of affairs for Smith's side, particularly as the three washed-out games have fallen on the only three rainy days they've had since they officially gathered in London more than a fortnight ago.
That the rain came in the evening was also particularly galling as the match is one of only two day-night games in the tournament. A result would have been possible had there been a morning start, but the combination of two neutral teams and the fact it was played on a Monday led organisers to decide on a later start to entice locals to attend after work. A well-intentioned decision that was made months ago, but one that only added to the frustration.
The long-range forecast for Saturday in Birmingham is good, although there is rain scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
While Smith agreed his side had "got away with one" when their match against NZ was washed out, the Aussies were by far the dominant team here as their quicks responded to their wayward performance against the Black Caps.
That Bangladesh even made it to 182 was thanks to in-form opener Tamim Iqbal, who contributed 95 having scored 128 against England in the tournament opener and 102 in a warm-up match against Pakistan.
After leaking 16 fours and three sixes in the first 15 overs at Edgbaston, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins conceded just a trio of boundaries in the same period today on a slowish surface where taking pace off the ball was highly effective.
So much so that as good as the main three quicks were early on, medium-pacer Moises Henriques and off-spinner Travis Head were just as impressive as they slowed the run rate after Hazlewood and Cummins had removed Soumya Sarkar and Imrul Kayes respectively inside the first 11 overs.
Henriques trapped Mushfiqur Rahim leg-before wicket for 9 – the Tigers keeper-batsman inexplicably opting not to review despite replays showing a clear inside edge – before Tamim hit Henriques out of the attack by taking 16 from his fifth over, including a delightful lofted drive over the rope at long off.
The vocal Bangladeshi fans cheered singles like boundaries and boundaries with even more fervour, so when Tamim launched Head for two massive sixes to start the 30th over, the noise exploding from the stands square of the ground left no doubt as to which team was the crowd favourite.
But Head responded by trapping Shakib Al Hasan (29 from 48) three balls later to reduce the score to 4-122 and end a 69-run stand that briefly gave rise to hopes of the Tigers posting a score of substance.
While the Australians were in control at that point, the threat of the left-handed Tamim seemingly convinced Smith to leave Zampa out of the attack and persist with his other bowlers.
Zampa (2-13) had been recalled in place of John Hastings on a worn surface but had to wait until the 34th over until he was finally introduced. And the 25-year-old struck with his second ball when Sabbir Rahman lofted a simple catch to Smith at cover.
Having started with a wicket maiden, Zampa bowled Mahmudullah in his second over before making way as Starc (4-29) returned to rip through the tail.
The left-armer first had Tamim well caught by Hazlewood at fine leg just five runs short of what would have been a deserved century, a short ball doing the trick as it had threatened to do for most of the day.
Having struck with the first delivery of his eighth over, Starc then bowled Mashrafe Mortaza and Rubel Hossain with the third and fourth balls thanks to two searing yorkers to find himself on a hat-trick.
Which he missed by a matter of centimetres as another yorker somehow crept past the base of Mustafizur Rahman's off-stump, the Aussie quick having to settle for a three-wicket maiden instead.
But he finished the job in his next over, thanks to another full delivery, and the fact that Bangladesh were dismissed 5.3 overs short of their allotted 50 overs was a huge boost for the Aussies as they looked to beat the impending downpour.
David Warner then led Australia's reply, finishing unbeaten on 40 from 44 balls after Aaron Finch had been trapped in front for 19.
Warner also breezed past the 4000-run milestone in ODIs, becoming the fastest Australian and the third-fastest man in history to do so.
He was in the company of Smith (22no) when the match was officially called off at 9.20pm, the pair's disposition even darker than the heavy clouds that had dominated the London sky all day and even into the night.
Champions Trophy 2017 Guide
Squads: Every Champions Trophy nation
2 June – New Zealand v Australia, No Result
4 June – India v Pakistan, Edgbaston (D)
5 June – Australia v Bangladesh, The Oval (D/N)
6 June – England v New Zealand, Cardiff (D)
7 June – Pakistan v South Africa, Edgbaston (D/N)
8 June – India v Sri Lanka, The Oval (D)
9 June – New Zealand v Bangladesh, Cardiff (D)
10 June – England v Australia, Edgbaston (D)
11 June – India v South Africa, The Oval (D)
12 June – Sri Lanka v Pakistan, Cardiff (D)
14 June – First semi-final (A1 v B2), Cardiff (D)
15 June – Second semi-final (A2 v B1), Edgbaston (D)
18 June – Final, The Oval (D)
19 June – Reserve day (D)