Australia would be desperate to restore some dented pride when they meet Bangladesh in the second and final Test, starting in Chittagong’s Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium on Monday (September 4).
Australia lost the opening match in Dhaka by 20 runs, and a 2-0 series defeat to Bangladesh, at No. 9 in the International Cricket Council Test team rankings, will send them from No. 5 to No. 6, a record low.
Bangladesh: Mushfiqur Rahim (capt, wk), Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes, Shakib Al Hasan, Nasir Hossain, Sabbir Rahman, Mehedi Hasan, Shafiul Islam, Taijul Islam, Mustafizur Rahman, Mominul Haque, Liton Das, Taskin Ahmed.
Australia: Steven Smith (capt), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Hilton Cartwright, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Matthew Wade (wk), Steve O’Keefe, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Matt Renshaw, Mitchell Swepson, Jackson Bird.
The weather held up in Dhaka despite the forecast suggesting otherwise, but the two teams may not escape rain Chittagong. The devastating monsoon floods have left a third of the country under water, and though trivial in comparison to the human toll, heavy rain is predicted for each of the five days of the Test in the coastal city.
Incidentally, Chittagong holds some fond memories for the Australians. The only previous time they played a Test there, in 2006, Australia won by an innings and 80 runs with Jason Gillespie, the night watchman, scoring an unbeaten double century in what turned out to be the last of his 71 Tests.
But Bangladesh are a more formidable opponent now and the biggest challenge facing Australia’s players is to find a way to combat the home team’s spinners. All but one of Australia’s 20 wickets in the series opener fell to spin, and the Chittagong pitch is expected to favour the combination of Shakib Al Hasan, the biggest star of the first Test, Mehedi Hasan, Taijul Islam and whoever else Bangladesh field.
Australia have recalled Steve O’Keefe, the left-arm spinner who took 19 wickets during the tour of India earlier this year, for the injured Josh Hazlewood and could play him alongside Nathan Lyon and Ashton Agar, their frontline spinners.
“The way the wicket was you are not going to have too many overs bowled by the quicks as the game goes on and we expect the same sort of pitch,” said Lehmann, hinting at a straight return for O’Keefe.
There was greater intrigue, though, regarding the batting spots of Matthew Wade, the wicketkeeper, and, to a lesser extent, Usman Khawaja. While scores of 1 and 1 have left Khawaja under pressure, it was his first competitive game since January. Wade also struggled with the bat with returns of 5 and 4, and conceded 30 byes – not wholly unexpected on a tricky Mirpur pitch where Mushfiqur Rahim conceded 22 byes too.
Peter Handscomb is an option to replace Wade behind the stumps, but it was the latter that kept in the nets on Saturday while the former worked on his short-leg fielding.
Taijul, the Bangladesh left-arm spinner, said the home side was hoping for a turning pitch again, and drew inspiration from the 1-1 series scoreline against England in the Tests last October. “I hope it (pitch) will remain the same because we are expecting another win,” he said in the lead-up to the second Test. “We have the capacity to win the series 2-0. We nearly did against England last year. So I don’t think it is impossible to beat Australia again.”
Australia will join Zimbabwe and Windies as the only Test-playing countries to have lost a series to Bangladesh if they fail to win in Chittagong, a statistic they would want to avoid.