A high octane Test series between Bangladesh and Australia is a whisker away and fans have fastened their seat belts in anticipation of this mouth-watering contest. Australia have been the heavyweights in this format and had a good run against India in their latest Test assignment. Bangladesh, on the other hand, are placed ninth in the ICC Test rankings, but one should not forget the kind of force they have gradually developed into. They have fared well in this format and have done well in the recent times.
In the subcontinent, a team’s fortunes are invariably hitched to the performance of the spinners. The rest is just background noise. The conditions are tailor-made for the spinners to dominate and this series should be no different.
Incidentally, both teams have at their command two world-class off-spinners, providing an interesting sub-text to the larger contest. The experience and guile of Nathan Lyon versus the precocious talent of Mehedi Hasan Miraz promise to be the flavour of the season.
It may surprise some that Lyon is Australia’s most successful off-spinner, and has done a commendable job for the side with the ball, coming in at a time when they were left parched for inspiration in the spin department following the retirement of the great Shane Warne. Hasan, on the other hand, is Bangladesh’s most attacking option in helpful conditions. A plethora of left-handers in both lineups should excite Lyon and Hasan.
While Lyon has been more effective against the right-handers, picking 177 wickets at 27.29, his 70 left-handed scalps at a healthy 32.11 make him a genuine threat. Despite being an off-spinner, his record against the right-handers speaks about his effectiveness with the ball. Bangladeshi batsmen can’t afford to let Lyon settle down as he will create problems.
Lyon did reasonably well against India in their backyard, picking 19 wickets in four games and this is certainly a great opportunity for him to make an impact. Australia have not managed to win a Test series in the sub-continent for a while now. Since April 2011, to be precise. This is a golden opportunity for them to break the jinx. And to do so, Lyon has to pick wickets.
Lyon banks on a conventional technique of flighting the ball and has great control. He has been lethal on Day 4 and 5 of a Test match and the conditions in Bangladesh should certainly work in his favour. Bangladesh have a lot of left-handers in their batting line-up, which will be tempting for Lyon. He is yet to play in Bangladesh and so is the rest of the Australian side but that shouldn’t be a big challenge to overcome.
For Bangladesh, Mehedi Hasan will hold the key. He is a promising talent and has fared well in his seven outings so far. When England toured Bangladesh last year, Hasan snaffled 19 English wickets in four innings at a staggering average of 15.63. Hasan ran through the English line-up in the first Test with six wickets to his name, but his side ended on the losing side by a whisker. He left the English batsmen bewildered in the second encounter by picking 12 wickets and help his side square the two-match series. These were also the only two Tests that he played at home.
Hasan has been more effective against left-handers. Out of 35 wickets that he has picked so far, 22 have been that of left-handed batsmen at 30.59. Australia, in all likelihood, will open with Matt Renshaw and David Warner. It will be a lip-smacking proposition to unleash the off-spinner on the two southpaws at the top, for the fact that he has an amazing record against them. In fact, he got rid of Alastair Cook on three occasions and has often opened the bowling for his side.
With the presence of Matthew Wade, Usman Khawaja and Ashton Agar in the line-up, Mehedi’s contribution will become more crucial. Australia will certainly find themselves in a soup if Hasan manages to weave magic with the ball like he did against England. A distinct advantage that Bangladesh will have over Australia will be the presence of Mustafizur Rahman in the bolwing attack. The left-arm pacer will create enough footmarks on his follow through for Hasan to exploit against the right-handers, which Australia in the absence of Mitchell Starc might miss.
Although Australia did put up a fight against India against the formidable duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, Hasan will pose challenges of different kinds.
Lyon has proved his worth and has enough experience behind him which should hold him in good stead. It is difficult to predict who might have a bigger impact, but the result of the series hinges on this battle.