Australia’s credibility on the line in Bangladesh

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By , Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

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    Australia’s last four Test series in Asia have produced one win and 13 losses.

    The two-match series against Bangladesh, which gets underway at Mirpir on Sunday, is very much a test of Australia’s cricketing credibility.

    Australia enters the series ranked number four. Its opponent sits at number nine. A two-nil series loss for Australia would see it drop to sixth.

    Many casual followers of the sport most likely see the series as a relative no contest with the expectation that Steve Smith’s men will sweep the series.

    This encounter, however, is no gimme with Bangladesh having shown considerable improvement in recent times.

    Its last Test series, over two matches in Sri Lanka in March, produced a one-all result. That alone should serve as a warning to Australia.

    When the Australians played in Sri Lanka in August last year they were thumped three-nil.

    Australian captain Steve Smith leaves the field

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Earlier this month India travelled to Sri Lanka and won three-nil with two of those wins coming by an innings.

    In underlines the improving nature of Bangladeshi cricket.

    In October last year, on home soil, it shared a one-all series result with England. It could have easily been two-nil in Bangladesh’s favour with England winning the opening Test by a mere 22 runs.

    Australia’s last Test series on the sub-continent – against India earlier this year – contained some positive signs. They need to be built upon if this series is to be won.

    At various times, the batsmen showed the application and patience required to succeed on Asian pitches. Sadly, except for Smith, none could readily produce those innings on a regular basis.

    Smith reigned supreme with three centuries in averaging 71.2.

    Matt Renshaw twice faced over 150 balls in compiling innings of 68 and 60; Peter Handscomb’s 200-ball, unbeaten 72 to save the Ranchi Test; and Glenn Maxwell’s breakthrough 185-ball, 104 in the same match.

    Yet, by series’ end Smith was the only Australian to average over 40.

    Leaving out Maxwell, who played only the last two Tests for an average of 39.8, Matthew Wade (32.7) was the only other batsman to average over 30.

    The two biggest disappointments with the bat were David Warner (24.1) and Shaun Marsh (18.9).

    For Warner, it was more of the same in Asia, where his 26 Test innings have produced an average of 30.4 against a career average of 47.4.

    Once again, he seemed to lack a consistent approach, fluctuating between aggression and patience.
    Marsh’s performance has cost him his spot, most likely for good.

    He was selected ahead of Usman Khawaja by dint of his previous performances on the sub-continent.

    Khawaja, who has not played an official red ball fixture since the first week of January, will likely bat at three with Smith dropping back to four, restoring the order that profited last summer.

    He is certain to play both Tests, and with it, has a chance to prove to the selectors that he should not have been omitted from the side in the first place.

    Australia must produce consistent batting performances across the board as Smith can only shoulder much of the responsibility.

    The key will be regular application and patience. Fleeting moments will not be good enough.

    Australian batsman David Warner leaves the field

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    On the bowling front, it has all but been confirmed that Australia will play two specialist quicks – Josh Hazelwood and Pat Cummins – and two specialist spinners, Nathan Lyon and Ashton Agar.

    Lyon was a solid performer in India with 19 wickets at 25.3.

    Steve O’Keefe also grabbed 19 wickets in that series but off-field indiscretions since then have effectively ended his international career.

    It will be Agar’s first Test appearance since the tour of England in 2013.

    On debut at Nottingham he made 98 at number 11 but was discarded after just one further Test as his bowling lacked penetration, claiming 2/248 across both matches.

    Across the board, he is a very handy cricketer – a reliable lower order batsman and fine fieldsman – but it his bowling that needs to truly stand up in this series.

    The Bangladesh attack will be built around spin which should give Australia’s tweakers cause for confidence.

    Australia will again play an all-rounder at number six with Maxwell’s batting in India and the dry pitch seeing him get the nod ahead of pace all-rounder, Hilton Cartwright.

    As for the hosts, they boast some capable players.

    Heading that list is Shakib Al Hasan who is currently the number one ranked all-rounder ahead of Ravindra Jadeja, Ravi Ashwin, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes.

    At 19 years of age, off-spinner Mehidy Hasan has made a solid start to his international career with 35 wickets at 31.8 from his first seven Tests. He and Hasan will be a formidable spin duo.

    Twenty-one-year-old, left-arm paceman Mustafizur Rahman has become one of his country’s most prominent cricketers through his exploits in the IPL. He has played just four Tests to date, capturing 12 wickets at 23.2.

    The batting can best be described as steady with skipper and wicket-keeper, Musfiqur Rahim (35.5), Nasir Hossain (37.3), Tamim Iqbal (39.5), Soumya Sarkar (37.0) and Al Hasan (40.9) charged with the responsibility of providing enough runs for the bowlers to defend.

    Australia should win this series. Mind you, it was tipped to easily account for Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka last year too.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.