The ideal way to start the day
The rain was about to spoil the third day’s play but thankfully, the sun came out in the afternoon and offered the spectators a good day of Test match cricket. Mushfiqur Rahim started off the day with a spinner from both ends with limited success. The logic might be, as the new ball was about to be taken after a while, let the spinners operate. But an attacking captain would have opted for a pacer to bowl at least three or four overs to inject the aggressive intent among the team. Mushfiq waited for the new ball and when it was taken after fifteen overs, he brought back Mustafizur Rahman aka Fizz to bowl.
Ideally, after a downpour, captains prefer to start the day with a pace bowler. Firstly, the wet weather allows some assistance for the pacers. Secondly, it’s always sensible to start the day with a pace bowler as it indicates the attacking mindset of a team captain and thirdly, a pacer always helps to create pressure and lastly, it’s never sensible enough to under use a pace bowler like Mustafiz.
The Chittagong track is different
Mushfiq and many read the pitch incorrectly. The track at Chittagong is not like Mirpur. The Mirpur wicket assisted the spinners as the day progressed and even, at times, your length erred a bit, the assistance (also wrong shot selection) led to the downfall of batsmen. Whereas, the Chittagong wicket is showing no signs of deterioration and square-turn even after three days of hectic cricket. It is such a wicket, where you need to get the basic right while bowling.
Nathan Lyon’s immaculate line and length in first innings give us an indication, Chittagong will satisfy you as a spin bowler, if you pitch it on the good length in and around the middle and off stump consistently. But Shakib and Co waited for assistance gave easy runs – just three maiden overs in 70 overs. Surely, the mindset of Bangladesh spinners was not ideal and poor fielding added more woes.
The experts have failed to notice how this track can be useful for pacers. In the morning session of first day, Pat Cummins breathed fire from the word go. He put a question mark on Australia’s plan to play just a lone pacer. The first ball from Cummins to Tamim was delivered at pace outside which the batter left and then the lanky pacer continued to pitch it short, directing the body and made the ball moving away from the left hander from an acute angle. He was solely responsible for creating a platform for Lyon to fetch wickets and he did it.
A brief absence from the field due to a minor injury of Cummins let the pressure release from Bangladesh who were reeling at 117 for 5 and bounced back to post 305 runs in the first innings. With due respect to Bangladesh lower middle-order’s stubborn resistance and counterattack, had Cummins not left the field, it might have been tough for the Tigers to come this far. As because, from one end, he would have been a continuous threat.
A lively Mustafizur Rahman
Similarly, as soon as Mushfiq brought back Mustafiz into the attack with the ball, the scenario changed completely. Mustafiz was bowling with a lot more intent and his line and length were heavily aggressive. He leaked runs but never stepped back to attack the Australian batter.
Warner was outweighed by a superb bouncer well directed towards the body and bent his back. Imrul Kayes took the catch to end a very good knock. The more Mustafiz bowled, the more he generated pace and tested the Australian batters. Then Fizz created doubt in Matthew Wade’s mind with his variation in length and trapped him lbw.
Fizz was lively today. Like Cummins, he created the platform for others to put Australian tail and lower middle-order under pressure. Fizz forced Mushfiq to switch to an attacking field. He was dishing out the nip-backer, the rib-snoter short pitch stuffs and late movements. When a bowler is exhibiting such sort of skills, I am not sure, why a group of people shout for cutters all the time!
Both Fizz and Cummins showed how this track can be very productive for an attacking pacer.
Why are the Tigers losing faith in their pace bowlers?
When Heath Streak was appointed as the bowling coach of Bangladesh, gradually, they lessened the dependence on spinner more and built a pace-bowling-oriented bowling attack not only in 50-over format but in five-day matches as well. At least two pacers featured in the team: one to stop the flow of runs and other to attack and search for wickets. The perfect example of execution of this plan could be witnessed at Chittagong where in 2015 where Mohammad Shahid’s nagging line and incisive length pressurised the Proteas and Fizz came in to trigger a collapse.
Streak left the job of bowling coach in 2016 and the responsibility was on Courtney Walsh to carry on the good work of Streak and transform Fizz, Taskin Ahmed and co into predators. But sadly, the legacy of Streak has started to wane as, Bangladesh have gone back to the old days when spin was the only answer to Bangladesh’s wicket taking options.
Streak made Bangladesh realise, how important a pace bowler can be in five-day matches and over-dependence on the spinners might not work every day.
To get the best out of a pacer, he is needed to be used appropriately. The mindset of using the talent of a pacer like Mustafiz only with the new ball is nothing but pragmatic. Mushfiq and Bangladesh think tank completely forgot how Fizz brought Bangladesh back into the game in the second Test at Colombo. Mushfiq forgot, Australia, these days, are not comfortable while playing against the quality pacers. Moreover, when you have a talent like Taskin, who has pace, it is never logical enough to ignore him.
I still cannot understand why Bangladesh need to play Nasir Hossain as a spinner? If he is playing as a spinner, then why play three frontline spinner?
Bangladesh attack could have gained more teeth if Taskin was included along with Fizz. On this track, both of them could have proved a point.
The Tigers are losing faith from their pacers which is very sad. It is not a very good sign as to do well in abroad, developing a competent pace unit is a must. It always gives a team an x-factor to conquer any tough challenges.
I hope the Bangladesh think tank should realise this soon.