The visit of England last year provided ample indication that Bangladesh was fast growing into a force to reckon with. And the scoreline at the end of the first day’s play at Mirpur underlines that they are no pushovers anymore.
Of course, in Nathan Lyon the Australians do have a spinner with the ability and class to match the local tweakers turn for turn. Something that the Englishmen had definitely lacked, notwithstanding the presence of Moeen Ali. Lyon’s guile, astute use of the rough and the impressive purchase of bounce did influence the rather unimpressive Bangladesh total of 260. Add to that Ashton Agar, barely used before tea, suddenly demonstrating to the world that he was not limited to his exploits as a No 11 batsman.
But, the way the Tigers have roared back by unleashing their own spinners at the Australian top order provided further testimony that the current crop of Bangladesh cricketers are not prepared to roll over and lose listlessly as their predecessors.
Of course, they were helped by the brain-fade of Usman Khawaja that resulted in the most needless of runouts. But the way the bowlers applied pressure in the last few hours of the day speak of a side with will and belief to beat the toughest of oppositions.
Granted, one of the three wickets Australia has lost today is that of night-watchman Lyon. However, 18 for 3 is not a score that will give them a good night’s sleep as they gear up for Day Two.
The first Test match between the two countries in 11 years had got off to a start that seemed to hint that time had remained frozen. Pat Cummins had charged in to leave Bangladesh tottering at 10 for 3, reminiscent of the old woeful days of the country’s cricket history.
But, the presence of class in the line-up, and thereby resilience, had been emphasised immediately after that. The experienced duo of Tamim Iqbal and Shakib al Hasan, both playing their 50th Test, added 155, the second-best fourth-wicket stand in the history of Bangladesh Test cricket. That was the first indication that there was fight aplenty in the side and the game was about to get competitive.
Glenn Maxwell’s part time off-breaks did prevent Tamim from pressing on towards what would have been a well-deserved hundred. Rather, it was more to do with the opening batsman’s impetuous cut at a ball that stopped on him, that resulted in it sailing in a friendly manner to gully. Shakib got closer to the landmark, but was done in by some extra bounce from Lyon. After that Lyon and Ashgar did the hosts in with some accurate bowling on a helpful surface. In the process Lyon went past Richie Benaud’s haul of 248 wickets, and went further to join the 250 Club.
Yet, as already stated, this is a new Bangladesh side. They are ready to experiment, innovate and attack. They believe in their ability. They have won before and have sufficient faith that they can do so again.
On the other hand, David Warner has never quite managed to succeed in these conditions. Khwaja too has managed poor returns in Sri Lanka, his only other foray to these parts, and did not help his case by his crazy running between the wickets. After that, Lyon, the nightwatchman, was done in by Shakib’s arm-ball.
Three wickets in 10 balls placed Australia in almost exactly the place that the opening burst of Cummins had placed Bangladesh.
Their last seven wickets have fallen for 92, the final four for 20. Nine of the 13 victims on the first day have fallen to spin. After the triple strike by Cummins, there have been 9 batsmen spun out and one caught short of ground going for an impossible run.
Indications are aplenty that this will soon become a minefield, if it hasn’t already. And in that case, batting fourth is not going to help Australia. They do need Steve Smith and at least one other remaining batsman to do what Shakib and Tamim did today for Bangladesh, and go beyond that. But it does not seem like an easy task ahead.