After their embarrassing loss to Bangladesh in the first Test of the series, it looked like the Australians misery in the sub-continent was set to continue. They had lost 3-0 to Sri Lanka and 2-1 to India in the past few years and it looked like that trend had no ending with Bangladesh thrashing them at Dhaka to go 1-0 up in the series.
Down and out, weathered and beaten, Australia needed a wave of fresh energy to succeed in this part of the World. At Chittagong, a few days later it came in the form of David Warner and Nathan Lyon.
All odds were stacked against them at the start of this Test series. Their batsmen were found wanting against the turning ball, apart from Nathan Lyon, none of the other spinners had impressed and their experienced opener, David Warner, looked befuddled on sub-continental wickets.
The first mistake, or so it seemed
Australia seemingly made their first mistake when they replaced the injured Josh Hazlewood with Steven O’Keefe. But they still had Jackson Bird available to play as a second seamer. However, throwing conventional thinking out of the window, the visitors decided to field a three-pong spin attack with Nathan Lyon opening the bowling in the first innings, something which Australia hadn’t done since 1938.
The pitch was flat as a pancake and Bangladesh had won the toss and batted first compounding Australia’s worries. But Nathan Lyon broke all such euphoria when he had all four of Bangladesh’s top order batsmen leg before wicket, a record. He finished with seven in the innings but not before Bangladesh had made 305, a handy total considering the Aussies’ woes against spin.
Warner’s sub-continental twist
David Warner is a home track bully. Before this series, 14 of his 18 Test hundreds had come in Australia and three others in South Africa. But his second innings hundred in the first Test at Dhaka had given him some much needed confidence. The southpaw put his head down, fought his sub-continental demons and battled the trio of Bangladesh spinners.
He found able assistance from Peter Handscomb and the duo strung together a 152 run partnership that lifted Australia from the rubble. Warner was so un-Warner-like in this innings. It turned out to be his slowest Test hundred as well, coming off 209 balls. That Warner took 19 balls to go from 99 to 100 is a testimony to his new-found perseverance.
“You pretty much felt in from ball one with the fields that they set, they didn’t really have any attacking men around the bat compared to last game,” Warner had said after yesterday. “It allowed me just to rotate the strike and not really have any need to leave your crease all the time.”
“At the end of the day, they try and shut down the scoreboard. They try and cut your boundaries out and play that way, try and get you caught around the crease and obviously look for that lbw dismissal or bowled through the gate. If you can negate that and you can manipulate the field, you’re going to be facing a lot of balls and you’ve got to be prepared to bat long periods of time.”
Warner’s change in attitude, something he says he derived from his former opening partner, Chris Rogers, was remarkable and the knock gave Australia a crucial lead in the first innings. But they still needed to bowl out Bangladesh before they put up a challenging target.
“It was turning to my past team mate Chris Rogers. It took me around 15 Tests to work around my pattern in conditions like these. I hadn’t had much of success in conditions like these and we fought back hard from the first game. Keeping my patience and working hard paid off”, Warner revealed after Australia’s victory.
With a 72 run lead, Australia had to come hard at Bangladesh. A week back they would have been hunting for the right man. Today, they knew who would put his hand up for them. Nathan Lyon’s journey from an apprentice groundsman to Australia’s seventh highest wicket-taker in Tests is an inspirational story.
He varied his angled, put more body behind his action and extracted disconcerting bounce and sharp turn to bamboozle the Bangladeshis. In no time, the hosts were 39/4 with Lyon picking up three of those. Cummins, who had bowled his heart out as the lone seamer, then added the big scalp of Mushfiqur Rahim before Lyon ran through the lower middle-order to finish with six and his career best figures of 13/154.
“I have to put my ego away and really bowl with confidence, in my terms ‘bowl ugly’. That might be round-arm for me, trying to undercut the ball a little bit more but using my stock ball as a variation. I think I’ve learnt a lot in the sub-continent and I’m embracing the challenge”, Lyon had said after his seven in the first innings.
He had indeed learnt a lot in this part of the World. From averaging in the mid-40s in Asia before the Indian tour to taking three success six-wicket hauls, Lyon had come a long way. Bangladesh had squandered a big chance to win a series against Australia, setting a meagre 86 for the visitors to chase down in the second Test.