The second ball of the innings was slogged to the boundary. This time with even more confidence and great authority, the fifth ball was also made to cross the ropes. The first over ended with eight runs to Australia and David Warner immediately appeared as a huge threat to the opposition. This kind of start is associated with Warner. He might have toned down a lot but being aggressive is being Warner. In the last few years, he has evolved as a Test cricketer; from being just aggressive into a smart and combative batsman and that has overall worked for him and Australia. Fighting against the turn on tricky tracks and ceaseless spin attack from Bangladesh, Warner managed to pull off one of his best-ever innings in Asia.
Although the result did not go his way, the knock of 112 off 135 balls at a strike-rate of 82.96 would have bettered Warner’s mindset about playing on the Asian tracks.
He has scored 5,574 runs in 65 Tests at an average of 47.64 and that is inclusive of 19 hundreds and 24 half-centuries. These numbers speak volumes about his potential; however, when you segregate the figures into different continents he has played on, his performance in Asia is only better than his numbers in America. Inspite of playing for more than four years in Asia, he only averages 32.50, being amongst the few senior batsmen in the team and one of the fewer ones who can be considered a good player against the spin. Despite having the knack of playing the spin, he has never managed to reflect that in his numbers.
Prior to the Dhaka Test, Warner had only one century in Asia from 13 Tests, which he had scored against Pakistan in the UAE in 2014. Following that, he played two more series in Asia – against Sri Lanka and India. In Australia’s tour of Sri Lanka 2016, where the visitors were whitewashed 0-3, Warner scored just one fifty in the six innings he had batted. On the other hand, when Australia flew down to India for the four-Test Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Warner again managed only one half-century out of the eight innings he had come out to bat. Australia once again were termed as one of the poorer sides to have played on the Asian conditions and once more their vice-captain was left grappling on the slower tracks.
The last time Australia won a Test series in Asia was back in 2011 when they defeated Sri Lanka in their backyard 1-0 in the three-match Test series. Following that the Australians have lost four Test series in Asia. Prior to the two-Test series in Bangladesh, the visitors were not expected to put a fight owning to their woes in Asia. That in turn was a great chance for Warner to better his image on the continent, considering Australia would be locking horns with a relatively new Bangladesh side.
The hosts scored a resilient 265 runs in the first innings before they put up an excellent bowling show too. When Warner was dismissed cheaply for just eight runs, it seemed like the New South Wales-born would repeat his poor show from the recently ended India series. Along with Warner, the other batsmen also failed; only Matt Renshaw scored a fighting 45 on the top and Ashton Agar did the repair work at the bottom of the lineup as he remained unbeaten on 41 runs before the side was bundled out for a mere 217 runs. The pathetic batting from Australia was carried into the second innings as well.
The blame for the humiliating loss to a minnow side like Bangladesh certainly went to their batters, who could not support the good work done by the bowlers. The bowling attack, inclusive of Nathan Lyon, Ashton Agar and Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood ensured Australia did not have a huge target to chase in the fourth innings. Primarily, Lyon, who led the attack from the front and ended with figures of 6 for 82 and restricted the Tigers at 221 and that meant with two days in hand, Australia had to chase down 265.
Despite the poor performance from the batsmen, Australia went as close as 244 runs and that happened due to the courtesy of an incredible century from their opener, Warner.
When Australia came out to bat on the third day in the final innings, there would have been only a handful of people who would have imagined the side to go as close as 244 runs. The second part of the poor batting was left for the fourth day as the third one belonged to the captain and his deputy, who took over the hosts’ bowlers with an absolute ease. The two were given a couple of lives but what mattered is they capitalised on it to put Australia on the driver’s seat at stumps on the day.
By smashing two boundaries in the first over of their innings, Warner made his intentions loud and clear. “Attack is the best defence.” This is how Warner approaches his game and he did at his best against Bangladesh in the final innings. Out of all the bowlers, he picked the off-spinner Mehidy Hasan Miraz. Whenever Mehidy came into the attack, Warner occasionally managed a boundary or two off his over. On the other hand, he was careful against Nassir Hossain and Shakib Al Hasan. While he was set at one end, he witnessed the early dismissals of Renshaw and Usman Khawaja on the other end. To release the sudden pressure on the team, he smashed Bangladesh’s best bowler, Shakib Al Hasan, for a humongous six followed by defending a couple of deliveries. He knew when to go for the big shot and when to defend it.
In the meanwhile, he brought his first fifty off 64 balls and from there Australia needed under 200 runs to win.
Warner raised the gears after he entered into his 80s. He first smashed Taijul Islam for a four behind square in the 33rd over. He picked a gap beautifully in the next ball and four again at extra-cover. After he defended the fourth ball to the short leg, he smashed again for four into the cover boundary and was two runs away from his second century in Asia.
Shakib Al Hasan, who had been troubling the visitors consistently in the match, allowed just a run to Warner and Australia in his over.
Tajul Islam was back and so was Warner on the strike. He went back and bashed it into the gap at the cover and ran like never to complete the two runs; he brought up his 19th Test century and broke into his usual celebration: pumped his hand as he leapt into the air. The dressing room stood up acknowledging the tremendous knock, that was taking Australia closer to an incredible victory. A win there would be their second-highest fourth-innings chase in Asia. Meanwhile, Smith and Warner also brought up only the fourth century stand in the fourth innings for Australia in Asia. Everything fell into place for the visitors. They needed to remain this calm and score the required 124 runs.
However, all the hopes were shattered with Warner’s dismissal. Before him, the skipper was already sent back to the pavilion. The visitors lost five wickets in the final hour before lunch, and any remaining hope perished when Glenn Maxwell was bowled by left-arm spinner Shakib with the first ball of the second session.
To not let Warner’s hard work go in vain and to end Australia’s jinx in Asia, Pat Cummins was the only hope at the crease, who had an injured Josh Hazlewood in company. Australia needed 36 runs with one wicket in hand.
The off-spinner Mehedi Hasan, who had picked the previous wicket of Nathan Lyon, was given the ball. And suddenly, with two sixes, a double and a single on the last ball, Cummins took strike with Australia needing another 21 runs. All the Bangladeshi fans in the stands would have recollected the Fattulah Test where Ricky Ponting had helped Australia successfully chase down 307 runs with three wickets to spare. So far, a team winning a Test by a wicket has happened only for 12 times. Out of those 12 times, Australia were on the receiving end on five occasions so Cummins knew if he managed to pull off a stunner here, he would become a part of the history.
Sadly, it was Bangladesh’s turn to taste a piece of history. Mushfiqur Rahim and his boys became the first-ever Bangladesh side to defeat Australia in a Test. As Taijul Islam trapped Hazlewood leg before wicket on the last ball of the 71st over, Bangladesh sealed the close match by a mere 20 runs.
The Test would be remembered as Bangladesh’s historical maiden Test victory over Australia. The credit would certainly go to all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan’s 10 wickets in the match and a top-score of 84 for Bangladesh in the first innings. However, it must not be forgotten that the match turned out to be one of the best in the history because David Warner’s century in the final innings helped Australia put up such a close fight. Hopefully, this knock would lift his confidence and he will have more to offer when Australia take on Bangladesh in the second Test at Chittagong.
After the embarrassing loss in the first Test to Bangladesh, a No. 9 side in the world who had only won nine of 100 Tests prior to the Dhaka Test, Australia would be desperate to avoid even more humiliations that would come along a whitewash, if they lost the second Test.