When the second day ended in Chittagong, a near-collapsed Peter Handscomb dragged himself off the field after closing Australia to Bangladesh’s first innings total with his vice-captain David Warner. The two remained unbeaten on 69 and 88 and share a stand of 127 runs for the third wicket and that meant Australia trailed Bangladesh only by 80 runs with eight wickets to spare and three days left in the match.
After Australia’s humiliating first-ever loss in Tests against Bangladesh, which happened in the first Test of the ongoing series in Dhaka, they are desperate to do anything to avoid more disgrace that would come along a whitewash in the Test series. On Day One, Nathan Lyon gave Australia a flying start when he reduced the hosts to 85 for 4 before their skipper Mushfiqur Rahim and their best player Shakib Al Hasan began the damage-repair. The two put up 32 runs for the fifth wicket before Shakib became Ashton Agar’s first scalp of the day.
The advantage that came to Australia with Lyon’s initial spell more or less negated when Rahim then shared a 105-run partnership with Sabbir Rahman followed by adding another 43 runs with Nair Hossain for the seventh wicket. Considering how the visitors batted poorly in the Dhaka Test, where they were bowled out for 217 and 244 runs respectively, Bangladesh’s first innings total under 250 would have helped him get into the groove. However, the hosts turned the table around when they piled up 305 runs on the board before Lyon’s 7 for 94 runs ended their innings. When Australia came out to bat, Mustafizur Rahman made a huge blow to Australia by removing Matt Renshaw in the second over of their innings.
The skipper Steven Smith was in next and took the charge as Warner played the supporting role, contradicting their usual roles in the team. Warner opened his boundary account only in the eight over and he smashed a second one after a gap of 11 overs. Smith happened to be Australia’s driving force in the initial level of their innings as he played with a strong mind, picked gaps smartly and did not get into his usual defensive mode; because that role was being performed by his deputy Warner. During Smith’s 94-ball knock of 58, Smith hit eight boundaries, while Warner, who was still at the crease at stumps of Day two had only hit four boundaries in his 170-ball 88.
Since Warner had a young and inexperienced face, in international cricket, at the other end, he stuck to his careful approach to the game and that certainly has helped Australia be well in the game. After Smith fell, just when Australia looked to set a platform, Handscomb and Warner ensured the momentum did not deteriorate in conditions that were testing the batsmen; especially the 26-year-old Handscomb.
On the opening day of the Test, it was Pat Cummins who struggled to bowl due to the heat and humidity in the Chittagong Stadium and on Tuesday it was the middle-order man Handscomb who had a terrible time in the middle as he suffered dehydration. The play for halted for several minutes as Handscomb needed immediate treatment to cool him down as he was at an edge to collapse. However, the miserable condition was not good enough to stop Handscomb from supporting Warner to take Australia as close as possible to 305 runs.
Handscomb, making full use of his play at back-foot scores as many runs as possible at the off-side as he found gaps there at regular intervals. He made the Bangladesh bowlers wait before he chose to play a shot and the frustration from that was evident on the hosts’ face. While Handscomb sat down on the field as he struggled in the heat, the Australians were seen giving enough wickets in between the overs, Warner on the other end remained silent with the bat as he aimed to be there till the stumps. After he earned two lives, his game slowed down even more as he became more cautious with his choice of shots. With Renshaw and Smith already back into the dugout, this pair, technically and sadly was the last reliable one in the line-up. Handscomb will be refreshed tomorrow and will look to be in full flow with the Australian vice-captain to try and earn a healthy lead to put Australia in the driving seat, in a must-win Test.