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Australia breathes sigh of relief

Written by: Staff
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SYDNEY, Apr 14 (Reuters) Australia breathed a huge sigh of relief today after captain Ricky Ponting steered his side to a face-saving victory over Bangladesh in the first test.

Ponting's unbeaten century guided Australia to a target of 307 with three wickets to spare, ending their hosts' hopes of a second victory in 43 tests which had looked likely after the first two days in Fatullah.

Although Ponting ensured the Australians avoided an embarrassing defeat, they looked physically and mentally jaded after a tough tour of South Africa and former captain Steve Waugh led the criticism of their heavy schedule.

''There's no way you'd play five tests in a row against any nation, it's physically and mentally exhausting,'' Waugh said.

''Mentally it's such a tough ask, to travel and have a few days break between that last test in South Africa. That was a really tough test match, it usually takes a week to get over a game like that.'' The Australian bowlers struggled on the opening two days as Bangladesh piled up 427 in their first innings and the world champions collapsed to 146 for five before Adam Gilchrist lifted them to 269 with his first test century for over a year.

Bangladesh were then skittled for just 148, leaving Australia to score 307 for victory.

Ponting's 31st test century denied Bangladesh a historic win but Waugh thinks the match will prove significant in the long-term for world cricket's lowest-ranked side.

''The positive to come out of it has been Bangladesh,'' he said. ''It's been great for them. They'll get so much confidence out of a performance like that, it could well be the turning point for cricket in that country.'' The second and final test starts on Sunday.

REUTERS PM RAI1031

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