Mirpur: Michael Clarke will fly out of Bangladesh with a clean-sweep to his name in his first series as Australia's full-time captain, but it didn't come without a few jitters in the final match. Michael Hussey's century and another Shane Watson blitz set Australia on the path to their fourth-highest ODI total of all time, and while the final margin of 66 runs may appear comfortable, Bangladesh put up a feisty chase.
The hosts needed 362 for victory, which even their most ardent fans must have felt was unachievable after they managed only 210 and 229 in the first two matches. But Imrul Kayes and his top-order colleagues gave the Mirpur crowd something to cheer about, pushing the score to 179 for 1 with 30 overs remaining, and Clarke was scratching his head for an answer.
It came in the form of the debutant fast bowler James Pattinson, who picked up his first wicket for his country - not the same country his brother Darren represented - when Kayes edged behind for 93, and the required run-rate crept into unrealistic territory. If only, the Bangladeshis must have been thinking, we'd batted like this earlier in the series. If only we'd kept Australia to something more gettable.
The chase fizzled out as Shahriar Nafees skied a catch off a Mitchell Johnson slower ball for 60, and then Shane Watson collected two wickets in an over. Mahmudullah made a late half-century, although by then the game was decided.
But at least there was a pursuit, not just a surrender. That much was apparent from the first over, which brought Bangladesh ten runs as Tamim flicked Johnson through midwicket for four and slashed him over third man for six. But Tamim (32 off 17 balls) couldn't keep out a Johnson yorker, and it was left to Kayes to maintain the tempo.
He did that admirably. The Australians had rested Brett Lee and the attack was missing some bite, the medium-pacer John Hastings having shared the new ball with Johnson. Kayes was rarely troubled by the bowling and he played some classy drives and cuts, finding the gaps and trying to avoid the type of risks taken by Tamim.
However, Kayes showed that he could also clear the boundary, with a well-judged slap over midwicket off Watson. The occasional gamble was necessary, given the enormous target and the fact that Nafees at the other end, while sticking around and turning over the strike, wasn't exactly peppering the boundary.
But just when Kayes looked set to post his second ODI century, he fell. It was an anticlimax for the crowd, who knew Bangladesh had let themselves down earlier in the day, when Australia rocketed to 80 for 0 from eight overs thanks to Watson's second demolition of the week.
Half an hour into the match, if the horse hadn't bolted it had at least noticed that the gate was open, and thanks to Hussey's third one-day international century, Australia rode to the relative safety of 300-plus and then galloped further ahead. In 768 one-day matches across four decades, only three times had Australia scored more than their 361 for 8.
There was 368 against Sri Lanka in Sydney five years ago and 377 against South Africa in the 2007 World Cup, both of which were, not surprisingly, winning totals. There was also the small matter of 434, which was chased down in Johannesburg in 2006, and Clarke was relieved Bangladesh didn't have the depth in batting of that South African unit.
The Australians themselves relied on three strong partnerships. First it was Watson and Ricky Ponting, opening for just the third time in his ODI career, who launched the innings with a 110-run stand. Then Hussey and Clarke (47) combined for an 89-run partnership that negotiated the middle overs, and a 70-run effort from Johnson and Hussey put the finishing touches on the total.
Hussey was lbw in the final over for 108, ending his first ODI century in four years and showing that even at 35, he still has something to offer this limited-overs outfit. There were a couple of sixes but it was a typical Hussey knock, as he found the gaps and the boundaries, and ran hard when the ball couldn't be properly dispatched.
He was overshadowed during his partnership with Johnson (41 off 24 balls), who lifted consecutive sixes over long-off from the bowling of Mashrafe Mortaza. It was a forgettable day for Mortaza, who took three wickets but haemorrhaged 80 runs from his nine overs. The only bowler who could hold his head up was Abdur Razzak, who collected 3 for 58.
It was Razzak who pegged things back after the early carnage, as he beat Watson in the air and turned a ball past his attempted sweep to rattle the stumps. Ponting (47) also fell to Razzak, lbw while trying to sweep. The Australians had been on top since the first over, when Watson pulled and punched through the off side for a pair of boundaries off Shafiul Islam, and he followed with four fours in Shafiul's next over.
Watson's half-century came from 25 balls, and he finished with 72 from 40 deliveries. Not that everything worked out for Australia, whose young batsmen were notable failures. Steven Smith was promoted to No. 4, but didn't take his chance, and popped a return catch to Suhrawadi Shuvo for 5, while Callum Ferguson spooned a catch to mid-off for 3 and Tim Paine was lbw trying to reverse-sweep for 7.
Today, it didn't matter. The old guard ensured a clean-sweep, and Australia can now enjoy their winter hibernation.