Dhaka: Having lost a hard-fought tussle against India earlier this year, Steve Smith said ahead of this series that Australia’s selections for Bangladesh had been made with an eye towards the next Test visit to cricket’s biggest nation in four years’ time.
The wisdom of his comments have come into question after he became the first Australian captain to preside over a Test defeat to the Tigers, ranked a lowly ninth in the game’s longest format.
The gains made in India were a distant memory as the tourists collapsed dramatically, losing 8-86 on day four at the Shere Bangla Stadium.
February’s stunning victory in Pune may have seemed to be a turning point for Australian fortunes on the subcontinent, but it now looks a false dawn. Six months later it remains Australia’s sole Test win in Asia since 2011, their record of 12 defeats from 14 starts in the region almost impossible to sugarcoat.
Bangladesh are clearly no longer the easybeats they once were, especially at home. As Smith noted last week, they beat England in a Test last year.
Even still, this 20-run loss is a bitter pill to swallow for a proud cricketing nation, one which only last year was the world’s top-ranked Test nation, and one that will slip to No.6 if it loses the second Test next week in Chittagong.
Set a challenging 265 to win for what would have been their second-highest successful fourth-innings run chase in the subcontinent, the tourists were nearing the home straight after Smith and his deputy David Warner added 49 to Australia’s overnight total of 2-109.
The pair had put on 130, with Warner posting a brilliant ton, his first Test century overseas since late in 2014, and just his second Test ton in Asia. While the odd ball was shooting up from the deck, the pair looked comfortable, with Warner punishing loose balls.
But the contest swung when the opener was struck on the pad in line with middle stump by Shakib Al Hasan on 112. The door into Australia’s middle and lower order had been unlocked, and once they opened it the Bangladeshis found a batting line-up which went down as easily as the sweet local tea.
Smith and new batsman Peter Handscomb advanced the score to 3-170 at drinks, but the skipper faintly edged an angling ball from Shakib to be sharply caught behind the stumps by Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim for 37 in the first over after refreshments. Victorian teammates Handscomb and Glenn Maxwell kept the score ticking briefly but Handscomb was removed for just 15 after cutting spinner Taijul Islam to Soumya Sarkar at first slip.
By this point the crowd had swelled, with Bangladesh reserve Taskin Ahmed stirring spectators into a frenzy on the boundary. A kill was there for the taking, and it looked likely to eventuate when Matthew Wade again departed cheaply LBW, prompting a jubilant dance from bowler Shakib. Likely mindful of his poor call not to review his first innings dismissal, Wade sent this call the the third umpire, only to find Shakib had him plumb for four.
Ashton Agar had looked assured with the bat in the first innings, but fell for just two after spooning a return catch to Taijul. At this point Australia had lost 5-37, their fingertips rapidly losing contact with the cliff as they headed to lunch at 7-199, with 66 runs still needed.
It was clear there would be no comeback though when Maxwell was bowled for 14 with the first ball after lunch, giving Shakib 10 wickets for the match to go with his first-innings knock of 84. Nathan Lyon valiantly combined with Pat Cummins to add 29 for the ninth wicket before the spinner was caught behind square after gloving a ball from Mehedi Hasan. The injured Josh Hazlewood joined his mate Cummins at the wicket for the final stand. While some lusty late hitting from Cummins boosted hopes of a miraculous revival, Hazlewood was eventually trapped by Taijul for a duck, leading to pandemonium in the stands.
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