Australia vs Bangladesh: Four things I learned

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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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

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    The Crowd Says (49)

    • September 9th 2017 @ 8:00am
      Baz said | September 9th 2017 @ 8:00am | ! Report

      Mayne davey finally figured out how to bat on these pitches or was it the fact he was dropped in both his 100s

    • September 9th 2017 @ 8:31am
      Marshall said | September 9th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      1) don’t worry about Renshaw he will be fine once he gets back home and plays a couple of shield games.
      2) Agar will be a great young cricketer for Aus, agree. He jsut has a knack of contributing
      3) Cummins is a certified gun, cant wait to see him this summer
      4) GM is worth persisting with he has shown flashes. That 100 in India was pure brilliance. If after 2-3 Ashes tests he has failed badly then change it up

      • September 9th 2017 @ 9:19am
        Adam said | September 9th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        Mate state the obvious pat Cummins was always gonna be better then Hazelwood pattinson would be better in those conditions and Matt renshaw batting average of 36 not good enough as a Aussie test opener and Maxwell he won’t last long in test side neither Cartwright.

        • September 9th 2017 @ 4:01pm
          Basil said | September 9th 2017 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

          Pretty critical observation for someone who doesn’t use punctuation.

    • September 9th 2017 @ 9:34am
      Nudge said | September 9th 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

      Cummins is just a freak. I’d be interested to know how many of his Asian wickets were with searing bouncers. I haven’t seen a bowler consistently making batsmen looked so hurried with short balls in Asian conditions. He isn’t just the first quick picked on dry tracks but first quick picked for the ashes

      • Columnist

        September 9th 2017 @ 5:09pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | September 9th 2017 @ 5:09pm | ! Report

        I agree Nudge, Cummins is an extraordinary talent.

        If his body holds up, I think he’s going to be a better Test bowler than Starc or Hazlewood.

    • September 9th 2017 @ 10:07am
      Perry Bridge said | September 9th 2017 @ 10:07am | ! Report

      Australian test selectors have to settle a bit – alas Siddle is done and dusted as Pattinson, Starc, Cummins etc will mean the end of a fine career. Lyon deserves to be #1 but there’s heaps of competition. Perhaps now that Wade has his keeping technique nailed down – his home summer with the bat will flourish as we know it can. And batting wise – Warner, Smith and Handscomb are locks. Probably Khawaja might again be expected as a home town flat track bully. Renshaw I do wonder – a 5 test Ashes series – but if now Renshaw then who? And #6 – I just want to see Maxwell be the main beneficiary of a ‘settling down’ by the selectors. Give him a run at it. He’s a far better red ball cricketer than many realise.

      • September 9th 2017 @ 2:02pm
        BurgyGreen said | September 9th 2017 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

        I’d also keep going with Renshaw. It’s been a tough year for all the batsmen except Smith. It would be short-sighted to make drastic changes for the home season.

        But if Renshaw struggles in the opening rounds of the Shield other guys might feel they have a sniff if they can put up solid numbers. Joe Burns and Marcus Harris would be the frontrunners but Cameron Bancroft might remember how to bat, and one feels that Shaun Marsh is never truly out of contention. Ed Cowan probably won’t make a comeback, but he did dominate the Shield last season.

        Also, Jake Weatherald has a modest first class record but would be in the selectors’ thoughts after making 96 from 52 in the intra-squad game in Darwin prior to the Bangladesh tour.

        • Columnist

          September 9th 2017 @ 5:16pm
          Ronan O'Connell said | September 9th 2017 @ 5:16pm | ! Report

          Renshaw definitely deserves more time, and in any case there is no other opener in domestic cricket who is really piling up runs.

          Joe Burns is the next best option, he had a good Shield season last year and I think he still has a lot to offer as a Test cricketer. But Renshaw is a special talent, he should be persevered with.

          • September 9th 2017 @ 7:34pm
            Nudge said | September 9th 2017 @ 7:34pm | ! Report

            Not concerned at all about Renshaw lads. I actually don’t even think he’s in bad form. He was fantastic in India but didn’t turn his real good starts into a big score. He tired late in that series which was no surprise. The surprise was that he did such an awesome job at the start of the series. Then in Bangladesh he held the top order together when all the experienced guys were falling around him in the first innings of the first test. Was desperately unlucky when caught down the leg side in the first innings of the second test, then got off to a decent start in the second innings but was probably dismissed because his mindset was to chase quick runs as Aus were keen to knock off the runs before the end of the day.
            The blokes a jet and will score 10,000 runs for Australia.

          • September 10th 2017 @ 1:45am
            Nev said | September 10th 2017 @ 1:45am | ! Report

            Khawaja could open, leaving Maxwell and Cartwright at 5 and 6

            • September 11th 2017 @ 10:07am
              matth said | September 11th 2017 @ 10:07am | ! Report

              That is an option, however I would say no for two reasons:

              1. Khawaja has been a gun number three in Australian conditions and I don;t like removing a strength to fix a different problem.
              2. Neither Maxwell nor Cartwright have taken their opportunities yet to such an extent that I would want to restructure other areas of the team just to fit them in.

              But Khawaja could handle the opening slot in Australia, no doubt.

            • Roar Guru

              September 11th 2017 @ 12:06pm
              Ryan H said | September 11th 2017 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

              So Khawaja opens with…Warner? So where does that leave Renshaw? I can’t see him going out of the test side, and echo the sentiments of Nudge above – he is a fantastic long-term prospect who will only become more consistent at the top. He achieved some solid starts despite not going on, as he did in India. He has a wonderful opportunity to nail down an opening spot for the next decade plus, if he wants it.

              • September 11th 2017 @ 12:28pm
                matth said | September 11th 2017 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

                It’s just a contingency in case Broad and Anderson tear him a new one. Renshaw will start and unless he can’t buy a run in the first three tests, there is no reason to change. Even if he struggles and gets dropped, he is very young and will undoubtedly come back in down the track.

                For the record, even if Renshaw needs to take a break, I’d bring in Burns or Harris, rather than promote Khawaja.

              • September 11th 2017 @ 12:45pm
                Don Freo said | September 11th 2017 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

                Renshaw will be fine. He’ll stay and he’ll star. He’ll probably send Anderson into retirement.

                There is plenty of other talent around, though. Maybe this is the year of the Bancroft.

                The WA captain’s brother isn’t bad, either.

              • September 11th 2017 @ 1:14pm
                Ross said | September 11th 2017 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

                Khawaja scored a century against South Africa as a opener in the best knock of the summer , he can open really well

      • September 10th 2017 @ 11:44am
        Pope Paul VII said | September 10th 2017 @ 11:44am | ! Report

        Khawaja’s 145 vs SA was not a flat track.

        If Handscomb is so flipping hot he can bat 3

        • September 11th 2017 @ 1:14pm
          Ross said | September 11th 2017 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

          No it wasn’t a flat track, it was a skilled innings by khawaja

      • Roar Guru

        September 11th 2017 @ 10:17pm
        ThugbyFan said | September 11th 2017 @ 10:17pm | ! Report

        As much as I love Maxy, I think Hilton Cartwright will get first dibs at the #6 gig in Australia. He bats at #3 for WA (First class Av 51 with 4 tons) and did really well last Sheffield Shield though G.Maxwell (Av 40 with 6 tons) has vastly more experience. Cartwright’s medium pace bowling isn’t that dangerous but he averages 45/wicket over 23 first class matches compared to Maxwell’s offbreak average of 41/wicket over 51 matches. Maxwell has 57 First class and 8 test wickets compared to Cartwright’s 12 first class and 0 test wickets.

        It could come down to the wickets (horse for course) or more likely the composition of the team. Australia needs to tell the groundsmen to put some bite into the wickets and bugger what Ch9 wants. England bats pretty deep these days so meek pitches are just playing into their hand, fast pitches and healthy bowlers and Australia has the firepower to blast them out. Then if they go with 4 quicks and N.Lyon do they need someone to give the quicks a rest ? Whoever is the “rest” bowler he needs to be able to bat in the top 6, so likely Ashton Agar is out and Cartwright with his better batting will play.

    • September 9th 2017 @ 11:32am
      Tanmoy Kar said | September 9th 2017 @ 11:32am | ! Report

      Australians have done well to equalize the Series against Bangladesh, but they have gone down to 5th. Rank in the ICC Rankings, can they improve the same in the Ashes?

    • September 9th 2017 @ 11:35am
      Tony Tea said | September 9th 2017 @ 11:35am | ! Report

      Cummins is amazing the way he makes things happen. Terrific talent.

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