Last week, the weather of Bangladesh was whimsical. The brightness of the sun was overshadowed by the dark cloud and heavens opened up soon to prolong its blessing and gift utmost misery to the people of Dhaka and Bangladesh. This land of music and poems, at the moment, is affected by a flood. The whims of this year’s weather seemed full of actions: storm, heavy shower, drizzles, thunderstorm and then exhausting heat. The whims of mother nature put a question mark on the first Test at Mirpur between Bangladesh and Australia. Thankfully, the weather was not action-packed, but to the satisfaction of an ardent cricket follower, more actions took centre stage at the home of Bangladesh cricket under the bright sun.
Pat Cummins sets the tempo
The mantra to counter the guile of Australian pacers was to get behind the line of the ball and play the ball late on the back foot. With the new ball, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins are notorious customers. Josh would pitch it on the length and back of a length consistently to keep the batters guessing while Cummins would bang it short, full and straight on an immaculate line to script quick wickets.
Pat Cummins set the stage on fire with his aggression by nailing three Bangladeshi batsmen. But as a matter of fact, Soumya and Imrul Kayes, in my opinion, threw their wickets away. If you cannot stay behind the line and attempt to poke and play the wrong shots from the body, you should not dream of batting higher in Test cricket. Soumya poked while Kayes played a useless shot. Meanwhile, Sabbir Rahman was outfoxed by a fuller length at pace which kissed the edge, confirmed by television umpire, left the hosts reeling at 10 for 3.
The Test series needed a cracking start and Cummins’ aggressive intent provided the ideal ingredient.
Shakib and Tamim added entertainment
If Cummins’ aggression extended further, it would not have been ideal for Test cricket to unleash its counter-attacking nature and script entertainment.
Three down and only ten runs on the board. Two best friends, Tamim Iqbal and Shakin Al Hasan were at the crease and thought of gifting some counterattacking punch back to Australian aggression. Both of them are not big fans of entering into the shell but like Tele Santana’s Brazil, they relish dishing out their attacking instincts and let the opposition captain switch to a defensive mode.
Tamim, squared up by Hazlewood in the previous overs, pulled a short one from Josh in front of square to sent Shakib the signal about his intentions. In the next over, Shakib’s blade flashed at Cummin’s short and wide delivery. Steve Smith decided to engage Nathan Lyon in the seventh over, which I think was not an ideal move when your new ball pair is in a killer mood. Lyon was greeted by a six over extra-cover from Tamim.
Tamim curbed his aggressive instincts for a brief period and provided the perfect foil to Shakib’s counterattack. Shakib showed everyone how to attack by relying on perfect technique: correct back lift, always behind the line of the ball, emphasize on back foot stroke-play, ability to disturb the length by using the feet more and never shy to leave the ball when it was needed. And then, there was that getting on top of the bounce which helped Shakib pace his innings well. At the other end, Tamim hardly used the bat horizontally but kept it straight more often and his decisive footwork manoeuvred the innings very well.
The fourth wicket stand between Shakib and Tamim pulled Bangladesh out of the muddy waters. A flurry of eye-catching strokes and towering sixes added the much-needed entertainment of the day.
Australia’s tactical comeback
The sun was shining brightly. The Australian captain and his men were sweating hard and witnessed a great resuscitation. But they were not in any mood to let it be a one-way traffic. Smith’s brain continued to work actively and study the tiny details of Tamim and Shakib’s partnership. Their back foot stroke-play was astute and by pitching it up he was unable to make them drive. The best way would be to trigger boredom in any of the batsmen’s mind by making them play more on the back foot.
Smith went for the Hazlewood and Glenn Maxwell combination for a breakthrough.
Hazlewood applied pressure and Maxwell provided the comfort by pitching it around middle and off on a length which Tamim kept on playing on the back foot. The idea was to invite a reluctant approach in any one of them. Maxwell pitched one to bounce stiffly which Tamim attempted to strike with a horizontal bat, an attempt which he was avoiding previously. Australia knew at any point Tamim would do such and he did it as Maxwell’s gifted comfort zone made Tamim reluctant.
The 155-run partnership came to an end and whenever you give Australia an opportunity to bounce back, they won’t relax at all. The last five wickets fell for just 72 runs.
An action-packed drama cannot just rely on a one-way traffic.
There has to have a comeback and Australia know the tactics of bouncing back.
Roar of the Tigers in twilight
Steve Smith led his team off the field with a smile on his face but he and his men had no idea about the sort of action Shakib Al Hasan and Mehedi Hasan Miraz would provide to fulfil the satisfaction of an ardent follower of Test cricket.
Shakib and Mehedi made the ball jump, turn and drift a lot to script fear on the faces of Australian top order batsmen. David Warner was outclassed by a Miraz-faster-delivery while Shakib left Lyon clueless with one of his accurate one which moves back in after landing. Usman Khawaja was a comical figure in the twilight of Mirpur.
Australia ended the day with 18 for three on the board.
Test cricket is beautiful and these days, Bangladesh can guarantee you an action-packed day!