Australia whitewashed Bangladesh in a two-match series the last time these two teams met, which was back in April 2006. After 11 years, both the teams are all set to lock horns, and Australia once again go into the contest as favourites. Only marginally, though.
The current Bangladeshi side has transformed beyond recognition and won’t be steamrolled at home, by any stretch of imagination. Their Test ranking of No. 9 paints a fallacious picture, given that they are a team on the rise.
While Australia competed commendably in India, in conditions very align to them, they will have to play just as well, if not better, to trouble the home team in unfavourable conditions. Last year, when England toured Bangladesh, the hosts came to rue some silly errors that cost them a series that eventually ended one apiece. Then they travelled to New Zealand and put in their best performance against a major Test team outside the subcontinent, albeit finishing on the losing side. Since then they have lost a solitary Test in India, qualified for the semi-final of the Champions Trophy and drawn the Tests and ODI series’ in Sri Lanka.
Compared to the 2006 side, this team is miles ahead in every department of the game. Their batting has stabilised, pace attack has more fire-power, fielding standards have improved drastically and most importantly, they have gained confidence and established themselves as a unit. They have most of their bases covered and have been producing finished products ready for the challenges of international cricket from the get-go. Young players like Sabbir Rahman and Mehedi Hasan Miraz have taken to the international podium like fish to water.
For the ongoing series, Bangladesh have a solid spin attack as their primary weapon, to begin with. The spin duo of Mehedi Hasan and Shakib Al Hasan will pose a great threat to the Australian batsmen, especially with the conditions being tailor made for spin bowling. When Bangladesh drew the series (1-1) against England last year, Mehedi Hasan was the tormentor-in-chief. He ran through the English line-up in both the games, accounting for 19 wickets in two games.
Bangladesh can also feel smug about the fact that Mehedi Hasan has been deadly against left-handed batsmen. Incidentally, Australia have quite a number of them in their line-up, presenting a lip-smacking proposition for Hasan. Both the Australian openers are left-handers, which will put an interesting contest at the top, given the fact that Hasan can open the bowling as well. From the other end, Shakib Al Hasan will keep the batsmen under check and is well capable of chipping regular wickets.
Their pace battery has the likes of Mustafizur Rahman and Taskin Ahmed, who are brimming with talent. They are hungry for success and this series will be an ideal opportunity to prove themselves. Australian batsmen did well in India but Bangladesh will be a challenge of a different kind. Also, none of the Australian players have the experience of playing in Bangladesh, which will only give Bangladesh a psychological advantage.
Talking about Bangladesh’s batting, they have some serious firepower. The likes of Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan are not only dangerous but also present very diverse challenges to the opposition, given that they are all so different from each other. They have done well in their latest Test assignments and one can expect them to recreate a similar magic at home.
Furthermore, Australia’s strike bowler Mitchell Starc’s absence will come as a huge relief for the hosts. There was clear daylight between Starc and others when Australia toured Sri Lanka two years ago. The left-armer scalped record 24 wickets in a three-match Test series. In fact, he picked key wickets against India as well but was ruled out after the Bangalore Test following an ill-timed injury. Although Australia have enough fire in their pace battery, Starc’s absence leaves a void almost impossible to fill.
Nathan Lyon and Ashton Agar are the two spinners Australia will start off with. But Lyon will be the key. Lyon has been prolific with the ball, especially against the right-handers. As though everything is conspiring against the visitors, it so happens that Bangladesh have a lot of left-handers in their batting order, further giving them an edge against Australia’s most successful off-spinner.
The stage is set for an interesting battle. This could well be a turning point in Bangladesh’s Test fortunes and can massively dent Australia’s reputation, especially away from home.