Australia’s hope for a resurgence in the series decider at Chittagong seems to be taking a heavy blow as the met department has predicted patchy rain and thunderstorms during the course the second Test, which starts on Monday.
Trailing 0-1 in the series, Steve Smith’s men are under immense pressure to get the result on their favour at the coastal city but right now, it seems along with the motivated Bangladesh, they also have to battle against the weather gods to avoid humiliation of a maiden Test series defeat against Bangladesh.
However, rain or no rain, we don’t need a rocket scientist to tell you that the Aussies are required to put up a vastly improved performance at Chittagong to outclass the Tigers at their own backyard. They came into this series losing 11 out of their last 13 Tests on Asian soil. Their only warm-up game before the Mirpur Test was called off and the hosts' spinners made use of their hosts' rustiness by claiming 19 out 20 wickets on a turning track. Apart from David Warner’s ton in the second innings, there was hardly any resistance from the entire Australian batting line-up.
We can expect the 22-yard at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury stadium to behave on the same way but the Australian camp feels it won’t bounce as much as Dhaka. Insiders feel, the wicket will be more of a slow-turner.
“I think it won’t bounce quite as much the wicket in Dhaka and I think it will take spin as much as the game goes on. May be not as much turn from day one, but I don’t judge wicket very well, so who knows,” this prediction from Smith during his pre-match press conference can provide his struggling batting unit a sigh of relief.
Interestingly, the Aussies haven’t declared their eleven yet, which they generally do on the penultimate day of the Test match. It has been learnt the visitors are still not sure about their bowling combination on this particular wicket.
Talking on this aspect, Smith admitted that Australia are seriously considering about playing three specialist spinners to force a result. There are high chances of Steve O’Keefe, who has been the late inclusion in the squad following the injury of Josh Hazlewood, coming into the playing eleven as the third spinner along with Nathon Lyon and Ashton Agar. Earlier this year, O’Keefe’s left-arm spin played an instrumental role (12 for 70 in the Test and 19 wickets in the four-Test series) to help the Aussies win a Test match against India at Pune.
However, someone like a pacer Jackson Bird can also be a handy option, especially on gloomy and windy conditions.
“We had a bit of discussion, but we are not going to name it until the toss tomorrow (Monday). We need to have another look on the wicket. It’s under the cover at the moment.
“I think the inclusion of O’Keefe into the squad a good one. It gives us the option to play three spinners if we like. Obviously, Bangladesh did that against us last week. If the wicket is spinning, it's really good option and there is a possibility we go on with that,” the Australian skipper further added.
Playing three spinners against an Asian team is always a gamble but considering the present situation, Australia have to do something out of the box. So, it seems to be a risk worth taking.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, do not want take anything for granted. Skipper Mushfiqur Rahim clearly mentioned that in his press conference. He in fact, expects his boys, especially the youngsters, to come out and play better cricket than what they did at Mirpur.
“There is no way we can play safe. We will play to our strength and attack them. In fact, whichever team we play now (at home), we play against them for win. We will do whatever it takes us for making it 2-0,” Mushfiqur said.
“At Mirpur, apart from Shakib and Tamim, none of us was at our best. So, there is a scope for improvement. Just think, if we can beat a strong team with just two or three players delivering than what will happen if five-six of us can play our best cricket!”
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh skipper also feels the weather is going to play a key role in the outcome of this match. But, he is banking on the ‘excellent’ drainage facilities of the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury stadium to get a result.
“The drainage system at Chittagong is very good. We have seen matches resuming over here within half an hour of heavy shower. I feel, if we can have play for three or three and a half days, we can get a result. Like Dhaka, I expect another exciting Test over here,” he said.
Nevertheless, Bangladesh might look to accommodate their Test specialist Mominul Haque for this important fixture. The stylish left-hander can add more stability at the top order. In that case one amongst Nasir Hossian, Imrul Kayes or Soumya Sarkar has to sacrifice his place.
However, remember, Bangladesh do not often come to play a series decider with 1-0 up in the series. So, as a unit, they have keep their nerves here.
Last time Bangladesh played a Test match Chittagong in October 2016, they came tentatively close to outclass Alastair Cook’s England. But the Tigers fell short by 22 runs from the winning target.
Once again, they are getting a chance script arguably the most cherished triumph in their history — a Test series win over Australia. What an achievement that will be for Bangladesh cricket, if they can attain it.
Australia: Steve Smith (captain), Matthew Wade (wicket-keeper), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Hilton Cartwright, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Steve O'Keefe, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Swepson.
Bangladesh: Mushfiqur Rahim (captain & wicket-keeper), Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes, Shakib Al Hasan, Meh Hasan Miraz, Sabbir Rahman, Nasir Hossain, Liton Das, Taskin Ahmed, Shafiul Islam, Mustafizur Rahman, Taijul Islam, Mominul Haque.