The Englishmen had been held 1-1 the last time they visited these shores.
The Australians are a side going through a rebuilding process and compared man to man they are nowhere near as formidable as their Ashes rivals. Yet, as the third day ended, they have shown plenty of resilience in clawing their way back into the first Test. The scorecard reads far healthier for them than it did last evening.
The key differentiator here was the presence of a quality spinner who could use the conditions of the subcontinent as well as his Asian counterparts, in fact even out stage them. While England have to make do with the questionable quality of tweakers sent down by Moeen Ali, Australia do have a genuinely good offie in the form of Nathan Lyon.
Add to that the other significant fact of David Warner suddenly deciding to come good on turning pitches.
The spinning finger of Lyon accounted for 6 batsmen on a day that saw the Australians take the fight to the hosts, and his bowling hand deflected one firm drive on to the stumps to end the supremely important innings of Mushfiqur Rahim. Even as Tamim Iqbal tried his hardest to press home the advantage of the first innings lead and the fact that the tourists would have to bat fourth on the wearing wicket, Lyon’s turn and bounce restricted Bangladesh to 221.
At one point of time, it did look as if they would run away to set a much larger target, but the last five wickets were lost for just 35, 4 of them to Lyon if one counts the run out of Mushfiqur.
That the innings did not run on further was more than creditable given that Josh Hazlewood had left the field with a side strain and the tourists had to carry on a bowler short to the end of the innings.
Even with the capitulation of the late order, Australia required 265 to win — a rather formidable target given the state of the wicket and history of cricket in this part of the world. In fact, things seemed to be following the standard sub-continental script when within the space of one over the two Bangladeshi spinners struck to remove Matt Renshaw and Usman Khwaja. The latter’s struggles in Asia continue to become too palpable for comfort, and the way he top edged the sweep to deep square leg was a testimony to his incompetence in these parts.
However, at 28 for 2, the senior pair David Warner and Steve Smith came together and remained unseparated till the end of the day. One cannot say for sure that the balance has shifted. Australia still have a long way to go to win the Test match. However, Bangladesh is nowhere near as much on top as they had been at the fall of the second wicket.
Smith has always been a top class performer anywhere in the world. To see him battling it out is the norm rather than an exception. But, Warner’s innings till now has been the most encouraging development for the visitors. Not quite proven on such wickets, the dashing southpaw showed considerable panache in scoring with habitual briskness, using his feet with élan, hammering anything loose. That he has scored 75 of the 109 Australia have on board underlines the difference in his approach with the rest of the batting side.
It is the very fact that their two seasoned pros are still at the crease that will allow Australians a good night’s sleep before they take field on the morrow. And to some extent, the Bangladeshis do have themselves to blame for allowing the game to slip slightly back in balance. If Soumya Sarkar had held Warner at slip off the thick edge he offered off Shakib Al Hasan, it could have proved the knockout punch. Warner, only 14 at that time, has made most of the reprieve and looks quite eager to capitalise further on the morrow.
Bangladesh supporters brought up on a litany of losses, will perhaps be edgy as they await the fourth day of this rather interesting Test match. But, one needs to remember that an early wicket is all that is necessary to bring the pressure right back on the tourists.
While the inexperience of Mehidy Hasan was exploited by Warner to a great extent, one should bear in mind that he has managed only two boundaries of Shakib, one of them a maximum and the other a missed chance at slip. With the canny left-armer determined to win it for his side in his 50th Test match, it will still require a rather superlative effort from Australia to pull this off.
The fourth, and by all indications final day of the Test match promises to be a riveting affair with two excellent batsmen squaring up against proven spinners on a deteriorating wicket with a manageable but difficult target looming on the scoreboard.