When Australia and Bangladesh entered the second Test in Chittagong, a series victory with an ease seemed on the cards for the hosts. After a poor show, especially with the bat, not many expected Australia to bounce back in the second Test and push Bangladesh to an edge at the very beginning of the match. The visitors aimed to restrict Bangladesh under 250 and anything closer or more than 300 would be an uphill task for Steven Smith and his boys and that exactly happened when despite Nathan Lyon’s brilliant spell, Bangladesh managed a first innings total of 305 runs.
On the top of it, Bangladeshi pacer Mustafizur Rehman removed Australian opening batsman Matt Renshaw in Australia’s second over in their innings. The dismissal turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the visitors because that brought in Captain Smith out in the middle with David Warner. The two took no time in doing damage control; the captain and his deputy shared a 93-run stand for the second wicket before Smith was sent back to the dugout. Even after the fall of two wickets, the trouble was still distant from Australia. Peter Handscomb, the next batsman in line, proved to be reliable in the past occasions.
The conditions at Chittagong Stadium were as difficult as it could have got and tested the touring party, especially, Handscomb to a great extent. The over dose of humidity and heat hit the Australian batsman really bad; the play was halted for several minutes as Handscomb needed immediate treatment as he was in a near collapse position. Had he collapsed and surrendered to the testing conditions, that would have in-turned collapsed the Australian batting line-up. Unfortunately, after Handscomb at No. 4, Australia have not got any reliable batsmen neither in the middle nor lower-order. Let alone the tail-enders, Australia desperately need dependable men in the crucial middle-order – at No. 5, 6 and 7 especially – where right now Glenn Maxwell, Hilton Cartwright, and Matthew Wade bat.
Cartwright can be spared here as he is a debutant and will take time to get into the groove. But the way Maxwell and Wade have been batting is simply unacceptable. A team opts to rope in trusty players in the middle who can revive their innings, in case of quick wickets, fall on the top. These players must have the knack of being calm, being careful before they let their game loose and go after the bowlers whenever they can. Nevertheless, Maxwell and Wade have shown characteristics anything but these ones.
In the first Test, when Mehdi Hasan and Shakib Al Hasan ran through the Australian top-order, Maxwell showed glimpses of being a warrior out there. It was more than noticeable that Maxwell advanced for almost every ball that were bowled wide outside off. The star bowler of the session, Shakib picked that and stumped Maxwell in a terrific display of line and length. He was followed by Wade, who lasted a mere nine balls. Being amongst the senior men in the team, Wade by now must be accustomed to the DRS reviews.
However, that’s not the case and that only turns Wade’s case from bad to worse. He made two DRS howlers in the first Test and he repeated it even in the second Test when Australia needed to have reviews in hand during the crucial stage.
In the second half of the second day, when Bangladesh looked to slowly crawl back into the game, Wade only made their job easier. The second Day of the Test had a delayed start on Wednesday due to heavy rainfall in Chittagong. The match finally began after lunch and Bangladesh took the front seat when Shakib denied Handscomb a deserving century by running him out. Then walked in Maxwell to bat at No. 5. I remember tweeting,” A responsible innings required from Maxwell. Seems highly unlikely. But we live on optimism. #BANvAUS #AUSvBAN.” However, against mine or several other Aussie supporters, Maxwell stuck around for a while. He played the exact role what was required of him in that situation – he supported Warner well. The two put up a 48-run stand for the fourth wicket. After Warner’s wicket, Maxwell could have been the reason why Australia would not need to bat again in the match; had he played longer, Australia could have had a healthy lead. He fell to Mehdi Hasan after scoring 38 off 98 balls.
Maxwell used a review as the replays were not very clear if the wicketkeeper had completed a clean catch. It turned out to be a failed review which meant the visitors had only one review left.
Wade, later on, was hit straight on the pads, the replays showed it to be a plumb LBW but the wicketkeeper-batsman chose to exhaust the last review too before he left the ground and more importantly, finished Australia’s mere chance of taking an advantage in the Test.
The role played by the middle-order batsmen have made a difference to their respective teams. In the first innings, when Lyon charged up with a ruthless spell, Bangladesh was expected to be restricted under 250. But, their middle and lower-order batsmen fought hard, the batsmen at No. 6 and 7 scored half-centuries each and that turned tables around in the favour of Bangladesh. Meanwhile, Australia’s top-order pulled the advantage to their side as they scored the majority of the runs. Once again, the gears switched and Bangladesh could have the last laugh in the day because Australian middle-order was disappointing, yet again and they have been the sole reason for giving away Tests, that could have won by Australia.
If Australia have to avoid a defeat in the Chittagong Test, it is important for their middle-order to deliver. The top three batsmen can give you starts but at very rare situations, one of the top men manages to remain throughout the innings. Keeping in mind the humiliation that can come along the 2-0 whitewash against Bangladesh and that might remove them from the side ahead of the Ashes 2017-18, Maxwell and Wade have to figure out a lot of stuff before batting again in the Test.