Bangladesh, since acquiring Test status in 2000, have locked horns against the Aussies in the longest format of the game on four occasions and they have faced innings defeats thrice. Apart from the famous Fatullah Test in 2006, when the Tigers came close to an unlikely upset, there had been hardly any contest between these two teams in red-ball cricket.
However, since their last meeting in white clothing (Chittagong Test, 2006), a lot of water has flown under the bridge. In the last few years, Bangladesh have become a force to recon with, especially at home. As both teams are heading towards resuming their Test rivalry after 11 long years, the Tigers can smell blood as the upcoming two-Test series will be played on conditions favouring them.
For any Australian cricket team, subcontinent has always been the roughest battlefield. Whether it was their glorious teams in the 70s and 80s, or in the 21st century, on most occasions, the Aussies had to face some intense resistance from the Asian teams on these spin-friendly tracks. In fact, the current lot of Australian cricketers, has probably seen the worst.
Despite the recent competitive Test tour of India, Steve Smith’s Australia, haven’t had much success in red-ball cricket on these slow-low wickets. They were being completely outplayed by teams like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India on their previous tours in recent years. In fact, in the last five years, Australia have lost 11 out of their 13 Test matches in Asia and on most occasions negotiating quality spin has proven to be their weak link.
For many, the forthcoming Test series in Bangladesh, which starts on Sunday, is a golden opportunity for Australia to improve their dismal record in this part of the world. Whereas for someone like Shakib al Hasan, who will be playing against the Aussies for the first time in Test cricket, this is his team’s best chance to gun down Smith’s men.
"They are the strongest opponent for us, although they are, for now, an inexperienced side. They didn't perform well in India and Sri Lanka in recent times. I hope that they will continue the streak and we'll do well against them," the Bangladesh all-rounder, who will feature in his 50th Test in the series opener, mentioned in a recent media interaction.
"I think our spin attack is better than Australia’s. Not in all conditions, but in Bangladesh, we are better than them. Taijul [Islam] and Miraz [Mehedi Hasan] have been bowling well for some time now. I believe they will do something fantastic in this series,” he further added.
The chief selector Minhajul Abedin too spoke on the same line. "We know they [Australia] are comparatively weak against spin, so we wanted to have all our options in place," he said and added, “Spinners did a tremendous job during the series against England and we want them to put up a similar effort.”
It is clear from the hints provided by Shakib and Abedin that Bangladesh’s gameplan will be quite similar to the one they had against Alastair Cook’s team last year. They are banking on their spin-trio of Shakib, Mehedi and Taijul to do the damage, like they did against England.
In that historic series, Bangladeshi spinners, especially young Miraz created some sort of a sensation in the cricketing world, by taking record 19 wickets in the two-match series at an average of 15.63. His 12 for 159 at Mirpur helped the hosts to register their maiden Test triumph over the mighty English side. Shakib too played a vital role by claiming 12 wickets in the series at an average of 18.41, whereas Taijul got seven scalps at 22.85.
Riding on this fantastic performance by their tweakers, Bangladesh played some fascinating cricket in both the matches. In the first Test at Chittagong, they gave England a tough time and finished just 23 runs short of the winning target, before coming back strongly in the next one to square the series. Later, the Tigers followed it up with a historic win against Sri Lanka at their den, P Sara Oval in Colombo, exhibiting their significant improvement at the international arena.So, it looks like the Aussies will have their task cut out against this improved and formidable Bangladesh team.
Meanwhile, the timing of this series against Australia couldn’t have been any better for the hosts. The tour was originally slotted to take place in 2015 but it got postponed due to security reasons. Insiders believe, due to Bangladesh’s current form and the rustiness in the Aussie camp, this change of schedule can be a blessing for Mushfiqur Rahim’s boys.
Since their group-league exit from the ICC Champions Trophy in June, the likes of Smith, David Warner and other members of this Test team haven’t featured in any competitive cricket of late. The cancellation of Australia A’s tour of South Africa due to the recent payment dispute also hampered their preparations. Even, their only warm-up fixture ahead of the first Test has also been called off due to waterlogging at the venue. So, the visitors are not getting any proper match-practice to get rid of their rustiness. Going into this series, this can be a huge advantage for Bangladesh.
It has been learnt the 22-yard for the first Test at Mirpur will be quite similar to the one prepared for England. Bangladeshi slow bowlers are likely to dominate proceedings as they are familiar with these conditions.
The spin brigade will be backed up by the pacers like Mustafizur Rahman and Taskin Ahmed, who are well-equipped with the skills of using the new and old ball. In the batting department, all eyes will be on the seniors like Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur, Shakib and Imrul Kayes. Overall, Bangladesh seem to have all bases covered.
Thus, the blueprint of success is ready for the hosts. Now it is all about execution. If rain doesn’t play spoilsport, we can expect 10 days of competitive Test cricket in this series.