Australia’s credibility on the line in Bangladesh

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By Glenn Mitchell, 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.

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    The Crowd Says (29)

    • Columnist

      August 25th 2017 @ 7:56am
      Ronan O'Connell said | August 25th 2017 @ 7:56am | ! Report

      G’day Glenn, spot on about the risk that this series poses for Australia. They made significant ground in addressing their Asian woes in the series in India but all that could be undone in the space of one or two really disastrous days in Bangladesh.

      • Columnist

        August 25th 2017 @ 8:16am
        Glenn Mitchell said | August 25th 2017 @ 8:16am | ! Report

        Agreed Ronan. Some jittery collapses early in the first Test may reopen old wounds. Partnerships and supporting Smith are key. The batsmen have to be patient and an build innings and as Smith has said, bury the ego.

      • August 25th 2017 @ 8:20am
        JoC said | August 25th 2017 @ 8:20am | ! Report

        Yes. Bangladesh should not be taken lightly.
        Australia too, desperately need a win to established some form and continuity before the Ashes commences. An established 6, keeper and backup spinner. The Poms look prepared, after a long season, and will make lightweight of Wi.

        • August 26th 2017 @ 1:47am
          Custard Cream said | August 26th 2017 @ 1:47am | ! Report

          JoC, I shouldn’t worry about our lot; we’re currently Cook and Root out, all out.

    • August 25th 2017 @ 9:13am
      Alan said | August 25th 2017 @ 9:13am | ! Report

      Fingers crossed for Usman – he deserves his chance but he’s on a hiding to nothing with little preparation.

      • August 25th 2017 @ 9:23am
        spruce moose said | August 25th 2017 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        Couldn’t agree more.

        • August 26th 2017 @ 1:41am
          Custard Cream said | August 26th 2017 @ 1:41am | ! Report

          I shouldn’t worry about our lot, JoC, it’s currently Cook and Root out, all out.

      • August 25th 2017 @ 11:03am
        George said | August 25th 2017 @ 11:03am | ! Report

        With Boof looking for any excuse to omit him.

    • Roar Guru

      August 25th 2017 @ 9:19am
      Edward L'Orange said | August 25th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      I really have to wonder what we do with Warner if he fails yet again in Asian conditions. Do we just not take him on subcontinent tours? Seems harsh to the vice-captain, but it may be a reality.

      • Roar Guru

        August 25th 2017 @ 10:21am
        Giri Subramanian said | August 25th 2017 @ 10:21am | ! Report

        If Warner fails in Bangladesh, it is better to drop him on the tours to subcontinent for tests. He is the most experienced Australian batsman in the line up and needs to pull his weight at the top of the order.

      • August 25th 2017 @ 11:05am
        George said | August 25th 2017 @ 11:05am | ! Report

        Warner is not a credible Test batsman in anything other than bouncy, flat conditions. He’s quite lucky to be chosen for this tour I think.

        • August 28th 2017 @ 12:30am
          Ashtont said | August 28th 2017 @ 12:30am | ! Report

          are flat pitches usually bouncy?

    • August 25th 2017 @ 9:53am
      Henry said | August 25th 2017 @ 9:53am | ! Report

      According to the Australian hierarchy O’Keefe’s so called ” off field distractions have nothing to do with his non selection . There is no clear reason except the peripatetic ” we’re going in a different direction ” for leaving out the outstanding spinner from the India tour and a bowler whose record is streets in front of Agar….. on all types of surfaces. If Australia lose this series then the selectors, and those responsible should be the first to fall on their swords. It’s hard enough to win on sub continental pitches with your best team as it is, not picking the ( obviously) best players is inexcusable.

      • August 25th 2017 @ 10:29am
        Rob JM said | August 25th 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

        I’d get sacked from my job if i did what O’Keefe did. As a senior player who has infringed before there are no excuses. Blame the marketing department for trying to play it down.

        • August 25th 2017 @ 11:06am
          George said | August 25th 2017 @ 11:06am | ! Report

          Warner would have been sacked after punching someone from a rival company too.

          • August 25th 2017 @ 11:41am
            spruce moose said | August 25th 2017 @ 11:41am | ! Report

            In fairness – and I rarely defend Warner – but he was disciplined and suspended.

            It’s not like he escaped punishment entirely.

            • August 25th 2017 @ 12:03pm
              George said | August 25th 2017 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

              But not ‘sacked’ either. As seems to be SOK’s fate.

              • August 25th 2017 @ 3:42pm
                matth said | August 25th 2017 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

                Warner was sacked and missed a few tests. This is O’Keefe missing his first. He is also a repeat offender, whereas Warner has pulled his head in somewhat. Finally, O’Keefe’s crime of drunkenly harassing other employees of CA made it impossible to sweep under the carpet.

              • August 25th 2017 @ 4:19pm
                George said | August 25th 2017 @ 4:19pm | ! Report

                Warner insulted a respected journo on Twitter, barked at an opponent etc. He too was a repeat offender.

                SOK had been overlooked for years because of personality issues (most notably with a former captain who gets on with Shane Warne). I suspect the selectors are quite happy to use his admittedly disgraceful behaviour as a reason to ostracise SOK indefinitely (even if no-one is allowed to admit it publicly).

              • August 25th 2017 @ 8:29pm
                Mike Dugg said | August 25th 2017 @ 8:29pm | ! Report

                Okeefe didn’t help his cause by verbally abusing the person he did. In this climate, CA had to make a public showing against him or otherwise face massive online and media pressure from activist groups.

    • August 25th 2017 @ 10:24am
      AGordon said | August 25th 2017 @ 10:24am | ! Report

      Completely agree with your article Glenn, but the rankings comment is a bit of a furphy. Yes, Australia falls to sixth of they lose to Bangladesh but they move to third if they beat England in the summer.

    • August 25th 2017 @ 10:31am
      Rob JM said | August 25th 2017 @ 10:31am | ! Report

      Falling to sixth is fine for a developing team. Its great to be the underdog for a change and care about something other than the ashes.

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