Darwin: One of the most lop-sided contests in cricket history begins this week when Australia host Bangladesh in the first of two Tests that could make David’s mythical battle with Goliath seem like a fair fight.
While Steve Waugh’s men are regarded as one of the finest sides ever to play the game, the Bangladeshis rank as possibly the worst Test team of all time.
They have not won a single match since being handed Test status in 2000 and there appears no chance of that drought ending against a ruthless Australian side.
Even the venues and timing of the series add to the irreverent spirit of the occasion. Cricket Australia (CA) decided to break with tradition and play the two games out of season in the country’s tropical north.
The first Test, starting Friday, will be held in the Northern Territory Darwin, the heartland of Australia’s Aboriginal community, with the second match, starting a week later, in the tropical Queensland city of Cairns.
Darwin’s Marrara Oval has never hosted a first-class match, never mind a Test, and a temporary pitch, weighing 36 tonnes, was shipped in from Melbourne and dropped into place by a giant crane.
There is nothing temporary about Australia’s team, however. They have selected a full-strength side for the series, despite the temptation to experiment with younger players.
“We expect it to be a Test match and we’re going to play as hard as we can,” Australia captain Steve Waugh said.
Of the 19 Tests Bangladesh have played so far, 18 have ended in defeat with the other match, against Zimbabwe, being drawn when rain washed out the last two days. They have lost 13 of those matches by an innings and eight inside three days and have been dismissed for less than 150 on 14 occasions.
“The success of the tour or otherwise ... can’t be judged in terms of wins or losses but more on individual improvement in the areas that we’ve identified in each player, said Bangladesh coach Dav Whatmore, who led Sri Lanka to victory over Australia in the 1996 World Cup final.
Australian bookmakers, so certain their team will win, are refusing to take wagers on the outcome of the match, preferring instead to bet on how long the game will last.
Victory on the third of the five scheduled days is the most popular choice but some are even betting it could finish in less than a day — making it the shortest Test ever. The ICC has been heavily criticised for allowing such an obvious mis-match to take place but players from both teams have defended the series, pointing to the rise of other smaller nations, including New Zealand who took 26 years to win their first Test.
The teams are obliged to play the series in order to fulfil their commitment to the ICC’s world championship, which decrees that all 10 Test playing nations must play each other home and away within a five-year period.
Bangladesh have surprised everyone by winning two of their three lead-up games in Australia, albeit against modest opposition, and Australia wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist diplomatically said they might even catch the world champions off guard.