STARING at one of the most embarrassing defeats in Australian cricket history, Steve Smith and his men must find a way to reverse their shocking subcontinental form to save the first Test against Bangladesh.
But it is possible, with two unlikely faces showing how to write the script for an increasingly unlikely victory.
That, plus everything else we learned on a dismal day in Dhaka for Australia.
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Cricket: Usman Khawaja has a few bites at the cherry against.
Khawaja’s juggling act
AGAR AND CUMMINS SHOW HOW IT’S DONE
If not for Ashton Agar and Pat Cummins, Australia would already be out of this Test.
Neither man is a mug with the bat but it’s never a good sign for the rest of the batting order when Nos. 9 and 10 put on the second-biggest stand of the innings.
Agar and Cummins taught Australia’s specialist batsmen a lesson about playing spin on the subcontinent.
They did not make it look easy but both showed that this pitch can be tamed — all it takes is time. Agar in particular was impressive. The left-hander took 52 balls to reach 10 and from there the runs started to flow, reaching 22 off 74 by the time Cummins fell for 25.
He upped the ante from there and finished on 41 off 97, the second highest score of any Australian — Cummins’ 25 was fourth, sandwiched between Handscomb (33) and Glenn Maxwell (23).
It should be said that both Agar and Cummins enjoyed early lives, with the former surviving the toughest of stumping chances on nought and the latter dropped on 11. Nevertheless, the pair looked as comfortable dead-batting Bangladesh’s bowlers as any Australian batsman and they showed the rewards that were on offer for those who could get through the tricky first half hour.
Cricket: Steve Smith gets bowled out for 8
Smith bowled out for 8
EVEN THE BEST HAVE BLIPS
STEVE Smith’s pedigree on turning wickets cannot be questioned. Heading into this Test, the Australian skipper’s average in Asia sat at 51.47, the third best of any Australian with more than 1000 Test runs on the continent. He already sits third for centuries scored by an Australian in Asia and is only two behind leader Allan Border having played 10 fewer Tests.
His demise on Monday was simple proof that even the best fail from time to time. Still, it couldn’t have come at much worse of a time for the Australians, who were left reeling at 4-33. Looking to assert his dominance over the Tigers’ spinners early, Smith came down the wicket to 19-year-old Mehedi Hasan. In doing so he turned a half-volley into a yorker and had his leg-stump pegged back.
It’s not the first time Smith has perished trying to get on top of a spinner. Last year in the first Test against Sri Lanka he fell charging Rangana Herath when Australia was in a similar situation and his side went on to suffer a 106-run loss. An omen of sorts for Australia or something less sinister like a side failing to fire without its best batsman producing the goods?
Cricket: Updates from the First Test between Bangladesh and Australia.
Bangladesh hold Day 2 lead
HANDSCOMB AND RENSHAW FRUSTRATIONS
Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb did their damnedest to rescue Australia from its disastrous start, dragging the tourists from 4-33 to a somewhat respectable platform of 4-102.
Unfortunately neither man was able to carry it on, with Handscomb trapped in front for 33 and Renshaw caught at slip for 45.
It continues a frustrating run for both batsmen. Since Australia’s last Test at home, Handscomb has scored 231 runs at 28.87, a far cry from the 99.75 he was averaging across his first four Tests down under. It’s not that he doesn’t have the game to succeed in Asia — although he did look susceptible to falling lbw with his preference to stay deep in his crease — he’s just having trouble converting his starts currently.
Across his past nine innings he has reached double digits and in four of them he has gone past 20, but only once has he gone past 50. One big score could be all it takes for Handscomb to rediscover his best touch.
Renshaw has had a similar issue, though not quite to the same extreme. Making the most of his long levers and huge stride, the Queenslander has looked as comfortable as any Australian on the subcontinents turning tracks. Still, as comfortable as he has looked his average sits at 30.77 in Asia. Like Handscomb he has enjoyed plenty of starts, going past 30 in five of nine innings but registering a top score of only 68. Like Handscomb all it could take is one innings for Renshaw to start dominating subcontinental attacks.
Cricket: Matthew Wade has missed a golden opportunity to review his wicket and stay in the game.
Missed review burns Wade
MATTHEW WADE BURNT BY NON-REVIEW
You can get yourself in trouble with a tactical review but if there was ever a time to call for one it was when Matthew Wade was given out lbw for five shortly after the lunch interval. For one, Australia had no recognised batsmen in the shed when he fell and the tourists still had two reviews up their sleeves. It also hadn’t been the most convincing Test from the umpires.
More importantly it was actually missing the stumps. At the same time, hindsight is 20/20 and it would be extremely harsh to criticise Wade for not reviewing an lbw dismissal that looked a strong shout to the naked eye.
Whatever the case, Wade hasn’t helped himself this Test. The keeper struggled with the gloves in the first innings and while it would be a huge shock to see him dropped from the XI this series, pressure is growing on the 29-year-old to step up.
Cricket: Australia are in a precarious position after day 2 of the first test against Bangladesh.
Aus staring down the barrel
SHAKIB AL HASAN IS A GUN
Forget about Ben Stokes and India’s Ravis — the best all-rounder in the world right now is Shakib Al Hasan. Having turned the Test with his 84 in the first innings, Shakib left Australia reeling with the ball when it was their turn to bat, taking 5-68 in 25.5 overs.
The 30-year-old veteran was the man who removed the two batsmen who looked most dangerous to Bangladesh’s hopes — Renshaw and Glenn Maxwell — and by the time he had accounted for Josh Hazlewood he had more than earned his five-wicket haul.
In doing so he became the fastest man to ever claim five-wicket hauls against nine other Test playing nation, beating Muttiah Muralitharan’s 66 Test mark by 16 matches. On the evidence of today, he could have got there a lot sooner too — this is the first time he has played Australia.
South Africa’s Dale Steyn and Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath are the only other bowlers to have claimed five-wicket hauls against nine different Test teams.
Originally published as The glimmer of hope for hapless Australia
Source: sports dailytelegraph