Australia nudge ahead in Bangladesh

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

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    Australia suffered another middle-order collapse but still managed to earn a valuable 72-run lead on the third day of the second Test in Bangladesh.

    At 2-250, with David Warner and Peter Handscomb cruising, Australia were in a position to bat Bangladesh out of the Test before a calamitous run-out brought the home side back into the contest.

    By day’s end Australia had creeped their way to 9-377, with their lead looking increasingly valuable as the pitch become more and more difficult for batting.

    The Chittagong surface was a road for the first two days, but by the final session yesterday the Bangladesh spinners were earning very sharp turn and some deliveries were shooting through low out of the rough.

    It looks like the kind of deck on which Australia will be thankful to have three frontline spinners. That’s not to suggest sole paceman Pat Cummins won’t have a role to play as Bangladesh quick Mustafizur Rahman was able to have a generous impact, taking 3-84.

    Rahman took the first wicket of the Aussie innings, having opener Matt Renshaw caught down the legside, and followed up with the dismissals of David Warner for 123 and wicketkeeper Matt Wade for eight.

    That continues an awful series for Wade, who has made just 17 runs from three knocks, and kept very poorly in the first Test. If the Tasmanian does not make a meaningful score in the second innings here it is hard to see how he will retain his place for the first Ashes Test, with Peter Nevill and Alex Carey in line to take his spot.

    Matthew Wade keeping

    (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

    The other Ashes position most obviously up for grabs is at number six and this Test is essentially a shootout between Glenn Maxwell and Hilton Cartwright.

    Cartwright started his knock with supreme confidence, playing perhaps the three best shots of the day – a beautifully timed on-drive, a thumping cover drive, and then a huge six lofted out of the rough over long on. It became, however, an innings of style over substance as Cartwright fell for 18 needlessly trying to defend a skidding off-break from Mehedi Hasan which pitched two foot outside off stump.

    Maxwell, meanwhile, looked completely out of sorts in his first half hour at the crease, struggling to get off strike.

    As his frustration built he played four loose strokes, any of which could have led to his demise. Twice he tried to heave the spinners down the ground – the first shot flew just wide of mid-on for four, the second lobbed not far from the fielder at mid-off. Both shots were badly mishit.

    Rather than reining himself in, Maxwell aimed a pair of optimistic back foot slashes at good deliveries slanted across him by Mustafizur. One was dropped at gully, an easy catch, while the other flew to the boundary between gully and the slip cordon, taking Maxwell to 16 from 39 balls.

    To Maxwell’s credit, he changed tack and began to play with circumspection as he scrapped his way to 38 from 98 balls before being caught behind off a well-flighted delivery by Mehedi. When Cummins (4) and Agar (22) went not long after, Australia had lost 6-78. This was a replay of their second innings at Dhaka, when Australia subsided from 2-158 to be all out for 244.

    Their misfiring middle order will be sternly tested once more in the second innings as Australia try to chase down a total to draw the series. Considering the constant threat posed by Bangladesh’s spinners in the final session yesterday, it looks as though batting last on this surface will be a very difficult task.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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