After a disheartening loss at Dhaka, Australia have the hopes pinned to the ongoing Chittagong Test. They started off well in a quest to square the two-match series at Chittagong; Nathan Lyon ran through the Bangladeshi top-order, but Mushfiqur Rahim and Sabbir Rahman brought their side back into the game with a tenacious partnership. Lyon was once again instrumental with the ball and shouldered the responsibility well under pressure.
At Dhaka, spinners inflicted massive damage and the conditions at Chittagong were expected to be the same. Both the teams opted to drop a seamer for this decisive Test. Josh Hazlewood was replaced by Steven O’Keefe while Bangladesh added Mominul Haque to the lineup ahead of Shafiul Islam. Australia had only Pat Cummins as a specialist seamer to put in the hard yards with the new ball and a spinner was expected to start the proceedings from the order end.
When Nathan Lyon opened the bowling from the other end, it was also the first time a spinner shared the new ball for Australia since Bill O’Reilly did in 1938. Australia needed early wickets to put pressure on Bangladesh and Lyon ensured he got the job done.
Going by the numbers, Lyon does not have the kind of impact against left-handers as he has against the right-handers. But Lyon did extremely well with the new ball to put Bangladesh on the back foot. Bangladesh has four left-handed batsmen at the top, which is always tempting for an off-spinner as the ball will generally move away from them.
Lyon trapped all the four Bangladeshi batsmen leg before and set a new record. Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar played for the turn but the deliveries were angled in and held its line after pitching while Kayes failed to make a connection with the ball while attempting a sweep. This was the first instance where a team’s top four batsmen have been dismissed LBW by the same bowler.
Tamim Iqbal has been the man in form for Bangladesh and played two crucial knocks in the series opener. His early dismissal was always going to be a huge advantage for Australia. Tamim looked cautious and had played 38 deliveries out in the middle. But a beautiful change in pace from Lyon deceived the southpaw. Lyon bowled a slightly quicker delivery, which struck Tamim plumb on the pads and the first blood was drawn
Imrul Kayes went for the sweep but missed the ball completely. The on-field umpire ruled it in the favour of the batsmen, but Australia decided to review this one and it turned out to be right. Lyon scalped two wickets in his first spell and most importantly, he did it with the new ball.
Soumya Sarkar got a promising start and was batting well on 33. Lyon got the better of Sarkar with a quicker one as Sarkar played down the wrong line and was caught leg before. Mominul Haque was also undone by pace as Lyon once again brought his quicker delivery into good use.
Just when the second new ball as taken, Lyon chipped in with another key wicket of Sabbir Rahman. Matthew Wade did a fantastic job in getting the bails off as Lyon claimed another fifer of his Test career.
Lyon made good use of the conditions and changed his pace beautifully against the left-handers. At times, the ball held its line while on few occasions it just skidded on. Lyon’s accuracy was outstanding and so was his adaptability, which makes him an asset. There was not a lot of turn in the surface and Lyon was astute enough to make changes in his bowling and go for the stumps. He was unpredictable, which was one of the key reasons behind his success.
Bangladesh are now in total command with 253 runs on the board and six wickets to spare. Pat Cummins, on the other, bowled some inspiring overs out in the middle and was economical, but remained wicketless on Day 1. Lyon will have a key role to play in this Test and his success in the days to come will certainly influence Australia’s chances of winning the Test.
Lyon is now placed seventh on the list of leading wicket-takers for Australia. He now has three five-wicket hauls in last three Test matches played in the sub-continent, and two in last two innings. These numbers are a testament to the fact that Lyon has discovered the ladder to success in the sub-continent.