Australia vs Bangladesh 1st Test: Five talking points from Australia’s loss

Daniel Jeffrey Editor

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    Another Test in the sub-continent, another loss for Australia. It was not the start to the tour of Bangladesh Steve Smith’s men were after, with the tourists collapsing in a heap on the final day to hand victory from the hosts.

    Here are five talking points from the match.

    1. Australia’s sub-continental batting remains in a spin

    It’s been an all-too-common occurrence for Australia in the sub-continent; the bowlers adapted to the conditions, the batsmen did not.

    With the exception of Matthew Renshaw in the first innings and David Warner in the second, no top-order batsman really proved their mettle out in the middle during this Test.

    Even the ever-reliable Steve Smith, whose efforts against India earlier in the year were nothing short of superb, fell well short of his lofty standards despite combining with Warner in an excellent second-innings partnership.

    The batting performance was a drastic step in the wrong direction after India, where Australia generally batted with an application that had been woefully lacking on previous tours of Asia.

    The tourists were no doubt disadvantaged by having their warm-up game washed out ahead of the first Test, but despite that, a number of batsmen look entirely lost against spin.

    Usman Khawaja’s efforts left all those pundits who called for his selection in India – myself included – noticeably quiet, Peter Handscomb never looked comfortable, although he was the victim of an excellent second-innings catch from Soumya Sarkar, while Matthew Wade… well, we’ll get to him later.

    Of course, had Smith delivered a century in either innings, as we’ve become so accustomed to in recent times, Australia notches a victory in this Test, and a pretty comfortable one at that.

    But this side needs to get over their reliance on the skipper if they’re ever to become a force in the sub-continent.

    Steve Smith Usman Khawaja

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    2. Let’s do away with the ‘minnows’ tag

    For anyone who’s followed their performances over the past few years, this will come as no surprise. But given the frequency with which Australia have played Bangladesh, it’s worth saying anyway: this is a good cricket side.

    They’re certainly not going to be challenging for the No.1 Test ranking anytime soon, but on their home deck, the Tigers offer a tough assignment for any visiting side. They pulled off a similar victory against England last year, along with an away win against Sri Lanka in March.

    Shakib-al-Hasan showed in this match why he is rated the world’s premier all-rounder (he became the second player in Test history, after Sir Richard Hadlee, to take ten wickets and score a half-century in the same match more than once), Mushfiqur Rahim is an accomplished keeper, captain and player of spin, and Tamim Iqbal proved himself a defiant opening batsman.

    Add in the likes of Mehedi Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman and there’s the nucleus of a strong side there. They’re no world-beaters, but Bangladesh are far from the pushovers in the Test arena they once were.

    3. Can someone remind me why we picked Matthew Wade?

    Matthew Wade’s position in the Australian XI must surely come under scrutiny following his first Test performance.

    Wade replaced Peter Nevill in the wake of the disastrous Hobart Test last year, brought into the side to bolster the middle order with his supposedly superior batting. But since his return, Wade has averaged just 21 with one solitary half-century and no hundreds. That’s a step backwards from Nevill, whose average was marginally better at 22.

    The change becomes more perplexing when you consider Wade’s inferior wicketkeeping. That was on full display in Dhaka, where he let through 15 byes in each innings, a total he didn’t come close to making back with his batting returns of five and four.

    Actually, come to think of it, Wade’s match deficit was 21 runs. Australia lost by 20.

    Matthew Wade keeping

    (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

    It certainly makes one wonder how exactly Wade is an improvement over Nevill.

    While Wade won’t be going anywhere for the next Test – he’s the only specialist keeper in the side and Peter Handscomb clearly isn’t ready to juggle wicketkeeping and batting duties yet – the pressure will be right on him to keep his spot in the side for the Ashes.

    Speaking of team selection…

    4. What changes will the selectors make?

    We’re guaranteed to see at least one change to the Australian XI, with Josh Hazlewood out for this series and the upcoming tour of India with a side strain. Jackson Bird, the only remaining paceman in the side, looms as a like-for-like replacement, but he’s no certainty.

    That Stephen O’Keefe has been called into the side as Hazlewood’s replacement indicates we could be in for a few selection shocks – and that the selectors aren’t sure who’s going to play in Chittagong yet.

    It’s safe to assume we won’t see a change in the openers – Matt Renshaw top-scored in the first innings and David Warner’s century was one of his finest in the Test arena.

    There’s no such certainty for Usman Khawaja. For all his class on Australian pitches, Khawaja has a poor average in Asia and his two dismissals – one an inexplicable run-out, the other a needlessly aggressive and poorly-played sweep – has his place in the side under serious pressure.

    While some have called for him to be dropped, it would be harsh and premature to only give Khawaja a one-Test run in the side after he wasn’t picked throughout the India tour.

    Despite all-rounder Hilton Cartwright’s run-scoring feats in domestic cricket, it would also be a step in the wrong direction to remove a specialist batsman after Australia struggled for runs this match.

    Hilton Cartwright of Australia bowls

    (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    But there’s no doubt selectors could be tempted to bring in Cartwright, push Steve Smith and Peter Handscomb up the order and bring in O’Keefe for Hazlewood. That would leave Pat Cummins as the only out-and-out quick in an attack with three spinners, the medium pace of Cartwright and part-time offies of Glenn Maxwell.

    The batting order would be left with an awfully long tail, but that’s not so much of an issue given how well the likes of Cummins and Ashton Agar batted this Test.

    It would be unusual for an Australian side to pick three tweakers, but it’s not the worst idea, particularly if the conditions in Chittagong mirror what we saw in Dhaka.

    5. How good is Test cricket?

    Answer: very.

    Regardless of who you support, there’s no denying this was one hell of a Test – it wasn’t until Glenn Maxwell fell in the final session of the match that the outcome was clear.

    Even then, Pat Cummins’ late striking raised hopes that the tourists could pull off the unlikeliest of victories.

    Let’s not forget Bangladesh had been reeling at 3-10 on the first morning, nor that Australia had seemed to be cruising towards their target when David Warner reached his century with Steve Smith settled at the other end.

    For all Twenty20’s fireworks, big crowds and big dollars, this kind of pulsating, see-sawing match just isn’t possible in the game’s shortest format.

    May we never see the end of Test cricket.

    Daniel Jeffrey
    Daniel Jeffrey

    Daniel is Editor of The Roar. You can catch him on Twitter @_d_jeffrey.

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