Australia were just 20 runs away from beating Bangladesh at Dhaka in the series opener. A match that was played over four days, where 942 runs were scored and 40 wickets had fallen, saw 20 runs making the ultimate difference. Bangladesh registered their first ever Test win against Australia, but visitors did put up a fight.
Bangladesh are on the verge of scripting history; they have never beaten Australia in a Test series. The final Test at Chittagong holds massive importance for both the teams as another win or even a draw will give Bangladesh their first ever Test series win over Australia. The visitors, on the other hand, will slide to sixth position in the ICC Test rankings if they lose the Chittagong Test, which will also be their lowest ranking since 1988.
Bangladesh have a golden opportunity in hand and if they are eyeing to script history at Chittagong, then their batting has to regroup and fire in the decisive encounter. Their bowling has been outstanding and spinners have done a fantastic job in chipping 19 Australian wickets (one was a run out), but batting needs to step up and add more fire.
In the first innings, Bangladesh managed 260 runs riding on a crucial stand between Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan. Pat Cummins ran through the Bangladeshi top-order and pushed Bangladesh on the back foot. The hosts were running out of options when the experience of Shakib and Tamim rescued the innings and sailed the ship out of choppy waters.
Shakib and Tamim stitched a crucial 155-run stand between them and a score of 300 above looked very much achievable. But it wasn’t to be as Bangladesh were bowled out for 260. Their spinners did a magnificent job in gaining a healthy lead by cleaning up Australia for 217.
In the second innings, Tamim Iqbal once again shone with the bat along with vital contributions from Mushfiqur Rahim, Sabbir Rahman and Mehidy Hasan. But, it was once again their impactful spin attack, which helped them win the game.
At one stage, Australia needed 107 runs with eight wickets to spare. An Australian victory looked on the cards by looking at the way David Warner and Steve Smith were batting, but Shakib Al Hasan provided the crucial breakthroughs and turned the game on its head.One can expect Australia to come out all guns blazing in the final battle as it is a do-or-die battle for them. Australia did put up a fight in the second innings but a low first innings score cost them massively.
They have roped in Steven O’Keefe as a replacement for injured Josh Hazlewood, which will further test Bangladesh’s batting. Steven O’Keefe did well in India, especially in the Pune Test, picking match-winning 12 wickets to help his side register an emphatic win. His presence along with Nathan Lyon and Ashton Agar will provide Australia more options and variations with the conditions being expected to assist the spinners.
Barring Tamim Iqbal, Bangladesh’s top-order failed to fire in both the innings of the opening game. They need to lay a solid foundation at the top and leave no margin for error. Their batting needs to step up as Australia are widely reckoned for making comebacks.
In the first innings, Mushfiqur Rahim, Nasir Hossain and Mehidy Hasan got good starts but failed to convert it into big scores. While in the second innings, Soumya Sarkar and Sabbir Rahman floundered after good starts.
At Dhaka, seamers hardly had any role to play and the conditions at Chittagong won’t be any different. Bangladesh could accommodate a specialist batsman in Mominul Haque and further strengthen their batting. The spin combo of Shakib, Mehidy Hasan and Taijull Islam is well capable of chipping 20 Australian wickets along with a seaming option of either Shafiul Islam or Mustafizur Rahman.
Australia will be bolstered with David Warner’s return to form as the maverick southpaw has a reputation of inflicting quick damage at the top. And it’s just a matter of time before Steve Smith starts getting big runs.
Runs on the board are always beneficial. Bangladeshi batsmen should look forward to providing a cushion for their bowlers by posting big totals on the board. Expect another nail-biting encounter at Chittagong when these two teams lock horns.