Australia survived a scare from Bangladesh to record a five-wicket win that ensured they finished the group stages of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 unbeaten.
After winning the toss, Australia took regular wickets through spin to reduce Bangladesh to 135 for six from their 43 overs after the start was delayed by rain in Wellington.
Spin continued to dominate as Bangladesh took the ball, Salma Khatun reducing Australia to 41 for four at the first drinks break before a defiant Beth Mooney guided her side, who had already secured their semi-final spot, to a seventh straight win with an unbeaten 66.
Having been put in to bat, Bangladesh made a steady start taking 28 runs from the first six overs before the spin of Ashleigh Gardner and Jess Jonassen was introduced.
Gardner would get the first wicket of the innings, dismissing Murshida Khatun for 12 from 17 balls as Rachael Haynes held on to a good catch.
That brought Fargana Hoque to the crease and she became the first Bangladeshi women to pass 1000 ODI runs before nicking Annabel Sutherland behind to Alyssa Healy for eight.
Australia then smartly reviewed to have Sharmin Akhter given out LBW, DRS confirming Jonassen’s delivery was hitting the top of leg stump as Bangladesh slipped to 58 for three.
The experienced heads of Nigar Sultana and Rumana Ahmed played calmly, taking five runs off the next 25 balls before Nigar departed for seven from 30 balls when trying to relieve the dot ball pressure.
Bangladesh continued to build promising partnerships, Rumana and Lata Mondol adding 33 for the fifth wicket before the former was caught by Jonassen at mid-off for Gardner’s second wicket of the day to leave the Tigresses on 95 for five with 8.4 overs remaining.
Lata was the final wicket to fall as Megan Schutt had her stumped after she top-scored with 33 from 63 balls, wicketkeeper Alyssa Healy whipping off the non-existent bails after they were removed due to the blustery conditions.
Salma was there at the end on 15 not out from 23 balls as Bangladesh set Australia 136 to win, no easy task given the weather.
But it wasn’t the wind that caused Australia problems, it was Bangladesh’s bowlers with Salma the main architect of the initial collapse.
Healy was first to go after holing out to Jahanara Alam in the deep for 15 from 22 as Salma became the first Bangladeshi bowler to take a wicket against Australia with this the first ever ODI clash between the sides.
Meg Lanning’s 30th birthday did not come with a present from her opponents as she was clean-bowled for a duck by a peach of a delivery from Salma, only the fourth time the Australian captain has failed to trouble the scorers in 98 ODIs.
Only three more runs were added before Haynes departed for seven from 23 deliveries as Salma single-handedly reduced Australia to 26 for three.
The injured Ellyse Perry could only watch on as Beth Mooney and Tahlia McGrath were moved up the order and now had a real job to do.
But McGrath only made three, given out LBW off the bowling of Nahida Akter.
Mooney instead combined with the hard-striking Gardner to build the biggest partnership of the innings so far, adding 29 runs.
But Gardner had to go when she was bowled by Rumana who broke the partnership with her 50th ODI wicket, the first woman to reach a half century for Bangladesh, repeating the feat Gardner managed herself in the first innings.
Mooney steadied a rocking Australia ship with a fifty from 60 balls, scoring only four fours as she realized the aerial route spelt danger, instead rotating the strike with Sutherland as the light began to fade.
The duo were there at the end after putting on the 66 runs needed for victory to see Australia home with 65 balls to spare to complete the clean sweep.
Bangladesh’s very slim hopes of joining Australia in the semi-finals were ended by the loss but they have another chance to pull off an upset against England in Wellington on Sunday.
© ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2022.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.