Buoyant Bangladesh eye landmark series win
Australia’s desire to keep its rare Test series against Bangladesh as brief as possible has had the unintended consequence of meaning that Steven Smith’s team can now do no better than tie the series following their narrow defeat in Mirpur. Equally it means Bangladesh are themselves within touching distance of their most significant series victory in 17 mostly faltering years of Test cricket. Their other wins have come against Zimbabwe (twice) and the West Indies, both of whom have spent much of that time propping up the bottom of the ICC’s rankings table – besting Australia would be another matter entirely.
The visitors will likely be better for the run last week, having not previously had any competitive cricket leading into it. However, their team composition is shrouded in conjecture as doubts swirl around the places of Usman Khawaja and Matthew Wade in particular. Wade, at least, has the knowledge that his only possible replacement is the part-time wicketkeeper Peter Handscomb, who notably trained for his more customary short leg posting at the team’s main session on Saturday. However, Khawaja could find himself missing out in place of the allrounder Hilton Cartwright, creating room for the unexpected return of Steve O’Keefe and leaving Pat Cummins as the only paceman. Bangladesh look altogether more settled in comparison.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to Bangladesh in Chittagong will be mental, simply getting used to the idea that a series defeat of Australia is not just a possibility but an opportunity waiting to be taken. But after significant Test wins over England and Sri Lanka in the past 12 months, it would be the logical next step in the team’s evolution. Australia, by contrast, need a victory to offer evidence of progress away from home, and also to bolster confidence ahead of a home Ashes series in much friendlier climes. All this is without mentioning that the weather forecast for Chittagong over the next five days is far from promising – another variable given added weight by the scheduling of a mere two Tests.
Bangladesh WWLLL(completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Not only did Mehidy Hasan prove the ideal foil for Shakib Al Hasan in Mirpur, his skilful use of a line around the wicket created plenty of problems for Australia’s captain and key batsman in Smith. As a better known quantity for the Australians second time around, Mehidy will have lost some of his mystery, and it will be intriguing to see whether he can ask different questions of batsmen who have also seen the advantage of David Warner’s decisive approach in the second innings.
Whether or not Australia choose two spin bowlers or three, Pat Cummins, asked to bowl swiftly and well in back-to-back Tests, will be the spearhead of the attack. For so long unavailable due to persistent injuries, Cummins now finds his stamina tested and also his ability to operate as a senior bowler, dialling up or down depending on what his captain requires. As Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc both convalesce, Cummins’ wellness and effectiveness will be closely monitored not only by Australia and Bangladesh, but also England.
Bangladesh will most likely keep the same side that prevailed in Mirpur, with the only possible change being allrounder Nasir Hossain left out in favour of batsman Mominul Haque.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Soumya Sarkar, 3 Imrul Kayes, 4 Sabbir Rahman, 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt & wk), 7 Nasir Hossain/Mominul Haque, 8 Mehidy Hasan, 9 Taijul Islam, 10 Shafiul Islam, 11 Mustafizur Rahman.
Seldom has more doubt surrounded the composition of an Australian Test XI, as Khawaja and Wade both find themselves under heavy scrutiny in addition to the place opened up by Hazlewood’s side strain. Hilton Cartwright, the just-flown-in O’Keefe and Jackson Bird are all possible inclusions, but the team’s final composition will not be known until the toss.
Australia (probable): 1 David Warner, 2 Matt Renshaw, 3 Steven Smith (capt), 4 Peter Handscomb, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Hilton Cartwright, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Ashton Agar, 9 Steve O’Keefe, 10 Pat Cummins, 11 Nathan Lyon.
Pitch and conditions
The Chittagong surface looked rock hard but can be expected to take spin. The weather forecast is far from promising, as rain is expected on all five scheduled days of the Test.
Stats and trivia
- Bangladesh are seeking their first series victory over Australia and only their fourth in all series since entering the Test arena in 2000. The others were against Zimbabwe in 2005 and 2014, and against the West Indies in 2009.
- Australia’s previous Test appearance in Chittagong reaped an innings-and-80-run victory for the visitors in 2006, a match remembered for Jason Gillespie’s double-century as a nightwatchman.
- Defeat in Chittagong would see Australia will drop to sixth on the ICC Test rankings, their lowest position on the table since it began in 2003. A win or draw would slip them down from fourth to fifth. Bangladesh will climb from ninth to eighth with a win or a draw.
“I hate losing games of cricket. It wasn’t a nice end to the game but again I’m confident again this week that we can come out and hopefully play with a good skillset and turn things around. It’s important for this group moving forward. We just need to play better cricket for longer and hopefully stay in the contest and get the result we’re after.”
Australia captain Steven Smith
“They know they are under pressure, because normally they announce the XI. In this case they haven’t announced the XI. But the Australia team are very strong and they will come back hard. We know that. But our boys are also pretty fresh and they are very consistent in Chittagong also. So if we do the right things I think the result will come our way.”
Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
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