On the second day at Mirpur, Shakib Al Hasan underlined that he is one of the greatest cricketers of modern times, definitely the first genuine great produced by Bangladesh. He is now, as has been mentioned earlier in these pages, as important a figure in the development of Bangladesh cricket as someone like Aubrey Faulkner for South Africa.
Following his gutsy 84 in the first innings, the all-rounder added a five-wicket haul … thereby completing five-fors against all nine Test playing nations, and restricting Australia to 217 in the first innings. Shakib has for years provided the world class component in a side that has struggled to mature. Now, with there being several performers of promise and class in the outfit, the continuing all-round brilliance emanating from this seasoned pro augurs well for the greatly improved unit.
After the left-arm spinner had put them ahead by 43 runs, the Bangladesh openers batted with an obvious resolution to stretch the lead to a significant size. Soumya Sarkar did depart just before the close of play, with a rather puerile hoick down the throat of long on even as the end of day remained just a few minutes away. But the lead has stretched to 88, and on a pitch that has demonstrated disconcerting turn and variable bounce, that is quite substantial.
Thus, at the end of the day, Australia find themselves with backs to the wall. It was a day that found them on the backfoot from the very beginning, with captain Steven Smith falling early to Mehidy Hasan. From the moment that they lost their only batsman with success in subcontinental conditions, the visitors struggled for almost the entire day.
In fact, if Bangladesh had not allowed Ashton Agar and Pat Cummins to thrive during a ninth wicket partnership, the deficit facing Australia could have been even more. The hosts did have a hand — or rather, butter fingers— in the late partial revival of the Australian innings. Cummins, on 11, skied Shakib to Shafiul Islam who dropped one of the most straightforward of chances.
Agar and Cummins did show plenty of patience and application conspicuously absent in the genuine batsmen apart from Matt Renshaw. The opener did put his head down to bat through most of the first session. However, he too could not capitalise on his start as he edged Shakib to Sarkar at slip just before lunch.
The other specialist batsmen were more than disappointing. Apart from the distinct inability to tackle the spin of Shakib and young Mehidy Hasan, there was a lack of organisation in the approach that should plough furrows of thought on the foreheads of the team management.
Granted, the pitch was a turner with a variable bounce that made batting a difficult task. However, they made errors that were extremely fundamental in nature hinting at a lack of preparation and planning.
The dismissal of Matthew Wade was representative of the curious unprepared approach. It did look plumb when the ball from Mehidy beat his bat and thudded into the pad. Nigel Llong thought so too. Yet, neither Wade nor non-striker Glenn Maxwell, thought of reviewing the decision, in spite of there being two reviews remaining and there being no specialist batsman after the duo. With Australia precariously positioned at 124 for 6 — the dismissal made it 124 for 7 — the option of using a review was perhaps the last throw of the dice. Yet, Wade chose to walk away and Maxwell concurred. They must be feeling rather silly now that Hawk-eye has concluded that the ball was missing the leg stump.
It is perhaps testimony to the fact that the Australians are a dazed lot. It is true that the conditions are alien. It is true that the Bangladeshis have been tougher than expected. But the level of disorientation in the visitors is rather surprising.
Based on the recent records, they could not have expected the hosts to be push overs. Besides, just more than one poor session with the bat should not reduce a professional side to such basic errors. As already mentioned, there seems to be big gaps in preparation and planning, and the scorecard at the end of the day reflects the same.
With the wicket being what it is, and the Bangladeshi batsmen showing every intention of driving home the advantage seized so far, it does seem that the Aussies face an uphill task from here. The balls are turning, jumping and kicking up, and batting fourth with a sizable target to chase is going to be rather nightmarish, especially given the performance of the visiting batsmen so far.