McGrath closes on Akram's record
Two wickets against Bangladesh will take Australian pace ace Glenn McGrath past former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram's World Cup record of 55 wickets.
The surprise will be if it doesn't happen.
McGrath's consistent and matchwinning bowling performances have helped Australia reach the final of the past three World Cups, including back-to-back title triumphs in 1999 and 2003. Playing in last international competition, McGrath, 37, is yet again spearheading Australia's quest for a first ever hat-trick of titles. His 54 World Cup wickets are a testimony to the impact this pace bowler had in ripping through rival batting lineups for Australia to romp home.
Seeking to dominate the Super 8s contest against unfancied Bangladesh on Saturday, Australia hopes that McGrath's record will be another milestone on the way to stretching its unbeaten sequence to 23 World Cup matches one of these games ending in a tie in 1999.
"Claiming a couple of more wickets and going past Akram will be something special," says McGrath, who has announced his decision to retire from international cricket after the World Cup. Eleven years ago, McGrath went without success in the 1996 final at Lahore that Sri Lanka won by seven wickets. Since then, he has made batsmen pay dearly for his missed opportunity. Snaring three wickets against the West Indies in the World Cup's Super 8s game Wednesday, McGrath boosted his tally to 364 dismissals in 243 limited-overs internationals.
He has already quit test cricket with a haul of 563 wickets from 124 matches, making him the most successful pace bowler in the history of the game. Only spinners Shane Warne of Australia and Muttiah Muralitharan from Sri Lanka are ahead of him. McGrath's 54 World Cup dismissals have come in 32 matches, while Akram got his 55 came from 38 games.
"Looking back, I count myself lucky to have represented Australia for 14 years," says McGrath, who made his test debut against New Zealand in 1993.
McGrath and current captain Ricky Ponting are the two players in the current squad who have featured in the three previous World Cup finals.
Emerging from five successive one-day defeats in the run-up to the World Cup, Australia has bounced back with impressive victories in all four outings at the premier limited-overs tournament. "It's a funny game," Ponting said. "All of a sudden we appear pretty frightening again, just two weeks ago everyone felt we weren't."
Australia has crossed the 300-run mark in all four of its matches that include its 103-run victory in the first Super 8s outing against the West Indies.
Australia is the overwhelming favorite against Bangladesh. But Ponting's side will be wary of an opponent that two years ago pulled off a stunning win over the world champion at Cardiff, Wales, in a limited-overs tri-series.
It was another shock victory this time over India in Bangladesh's first match that secured the team its biggest World Cup moment by advancing to the Super 8s.
Bangladesh finished second in the preliminary round from a group that featured two former world champions _ India and Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankans topped the group.
Captain Habibul Bashar now wants his Bangladesh side to prove that the Super 8s qualification was no fluke.
"It's an exciting time for Bangladesh, we want to continue our good performance," says Bashar, promising to silence those who doubted Bangladesh's ability.
Australia (from): Ricky Ponting (captain), Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Michael Hussey, Shane Watson, Brad Hogg, Nathan Bracken, Shaun Tait, Glenn McGrath, Brad Hodge, Mitchell Johnson, Brad Haddin, Stuart Clark
Bangladesh (from): Habibul Bashar (captain), Shahriar Nafees, Tamim Iqbal, Aftab Ahmed, Saqibul Hasan, Mohammad Ashraful, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mohammad Rafique, Abdur Razzak, Mashrafee Mortaza, Tapash Baishya, Shahadat Hossain, Syed Russel, Rajin Saleh, Javed Omar.
Umpires: Billy Bowden, New Zealand, and Aleem Dar, Pakistan.
TV umpire: Rudi Koertzen, South Africa.
Match referee: Chris Broad, England.