Australia vs Bangladesh: Four things I learned

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

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    Australia and Bangladesh fought out a vastly entertaining drawn Test series over the past fortnight. Here are four things I learned from this contest.

    Matt Renshaw is in a deep form trough ahead of the Ashes
    So much criticism has been hurled at the likes of Matt Wade, Glenn Maxwell and David Warner over Australia’s past few Test matches that their 21-year-old opener has largely escaped scrutiny. In Renshaw’s last nine Test innings he has made only 149 runs at an average of 16.

    What makes this slump of even greater concern, looking ahead to the Ashes, is that it is not the result of Renshaw floundering against spin on dry Asian surfaces. Rather, six of those nine dismissals have been against pace bowlers.

    The outstanding feature of Renshaw’s batting during his prolific debut summer was how well he knew the location of his off stump. He left the ball very well against the quicks, rarely getting sucked in to sparring at wide deliveries.

    Of late, however, Renshaw has looked less sure of which pace deliveries to play and which to ignore. This is an issue he will need to fix before facing England’s accurate seamers this summer.

    Ashton Agar has a big future in Test cricket
    Agar’s selection for this series shocked many people, and justifiably so. Steve O’Keefe had performed well for Australia in his brief career, while Victorian spinner Jon Holland had piled up 77 wickets at 21 from his past 16 Sheffield Shield matches and dominated in Australia’s trial match in Darwin.

    As I argued last month, however, that did not make Agar a bad choice to play in Bangladesh as he was a vastly-improved bowler since his first Test stint and also offered Australia crucial extra depth with the bat.

    The 23-year-old proved both of these assessments correct across the two-Test series. While he was underused with the ball, sending down just 61.4 overs compared to 133.5 overs for Lyon, Agar impressed with his accuracy, changes of pace and ability to generate disconcerting bounce.

    He kept things tight, conceding a miserly 2.62 runs per over, and chipped in with seven wickets at 23. It was notable, too, that he regularly took valuable wickets – only one of his seven was a tail ender. Yet arguably his most important contribution was the wonderfully-patient 41no from 97 balls he made under immense pressure in the first innings of the first Test.

    When Agar arrived at the crease Australia were 7-124, trailing Bangladesh by 136 runs.

    Australia had nearly lost the Test at that stage, given they would have to bat last on pitch offering huge assistance to the spinners.

    Then Agar set about taming the home attack, showing a confident defence and admirable composure. After four Tests, Agar now averages 32 with the bat. That is an average he may well be able to maintain when he gets a longer stint in the Test team in the years to come.

    Ashton Agar vs BangladeshAustralia’s Ashton Agar (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

    Pat Cummins is better than Josh Hazlewood in Asian conditions
    If, hypothetically, Australia were to play Bangladesh in a third Test next week, and had all of their players fit and available, Josh Hazlewood would be squeezed out of their line-up by Pat Cummins. Hazlewood might be the fifth ranked Test bowler in the world, but Cummins has been fantastic in his four Tests in Asia this year.

    It would not be a case of Hazlewood being left out for poor performance, but rather Cummins forcing his way into the XI. Hazlewood has bowled solidly, and without much luck, across his eight Tests in Asia.

    He has built great pressure for his fellow bowlers to capitalise on, giving up a meagre 2.54 runs per over, but he has lacked penetration, taking just 16 wickets at an average of 35. In the three Tests in which both he and Cummins played – two in India and one in Dhaka – the younger paceman looked considerably more threatening each time.

    Few visiting quicks in the past decade have bowled as well in Asia as Cummins has this year. He offers Smith a rare package – an attacking bowler who also chokes the run rate. Since returning to the Test team in India, Cummins has snared 14 wickets at 29, while also giving up just 2.97 runs per over.

    On low, slow pitches, that is a very good return for any fast bowler, let alone for an extremely-inexperienced one who has played a meagre 13 first-class matches. If Cummins’ body holds up, he will become a dominant Test cricketer.

    Glenn Maxwell deserves far more credit
    Maxwell is one of those cricketers many fans love to hate. As a result, even when he is performing well he still gets buffeted by criticism. Since returning to the Test team in India, Maxwell has averaged 37 with the bat from four Tests.

    Australia Test player Glenn Maxwell raises his bat

    (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

    That’s a fine return when you consider how many members of Australia’s top six in recent years have flopped spectacularly in Asia. Add in his brilliant fielding and handy bowling, and he’s been a valuable member of the team this year.

    It surprises me that so many cricket followers are prepared to write off Maxwell as a Test player when he’s never even played one Test outside of Asia, the region where most Australian cricketers labour badly.

    There’s no ignoring the fact that Maxwell played some unnecessarily cavalier strokes at times in Bangladesh and India. But the proof is in the pudding and, prior to Maxwell rejoining the team in India, any Australian fan would have been happy for their number six to average 37 over the following four Tests in Asia.

    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