Many are comparing the upcoming test series between Bangladesh and Australia to a David versus Goliath battle, with some cricket fans mocking Bangladesh as being cannon fodder for the more established cricketing giant.
This is highlighted by the betting odds for the first Test which commences on Sunday:
Bangladesh to win-$6.30
Australia to win-$1.50
These are truly outrageous odds, based on an outdated view of Bangladesh that ignores their recent vast improvement at Test cricket level. They drew in a home series against England at the end of 2016 and started 2017 with a similar result playing away against Sri Lanka. Both of these series displayed how dangerous they can be when playing in conditions that suit them.
The biggest concern for Bangladesh is not their skills, which are adequate in terms of both batting and bowling in home conditions, but more for their temperament, as shown by their lack of consistent effort throughout test matches. They are often let down by a lapsed hour or session of play that relinquishes any ascendancy they may have had back to the opposition. This came to the fore in the series at home against England which should have ended in a whitewash for the hosts as well as away against New Zealand where they dominated in phases, only to suffer a series sweep.
Their most recent effort against Sri Lanka shows they are on the cusp of a coming of age after they came back from one down to level the series which culminated in a very complete performance in the 2nd test victory.
An aggressive Australian outfit will provide a real litmus test for the Tigers’ burgeoning maturity, particularly with the Aussies bound to indulge in some characteristic ‘chat’ as part of their mental assault on oppositions to throw them off their games. If Bangladesh can deal with this, it could not only see the series become an unexpected classic, but also one that ends with a shock upset.
The challenge for the Australian tourists is their questionable ability to cope with Asian conditions. They’ve lost their last three series in Asia with two of these being comprehensive whitewashes. Fans will point to the very respectable recent 2/1 defeat away to India to bolster their confidence for the upcoming test, but Mitchell Starc, Shaun Marsh and Steven O’Keefe are all missing from the selected squad to Bangladesh. The former injured, with the latter two curiously overlooked for the tour.
Most, when thinking about Starc’s absence, will focus on the importance of his bowling to the team, however his lower order batting is also dangerous, as was seen during the first test of the Indian series when Starc scored 61, which was pivotal and crucial to the team’s victory. This factor seems apparent in the minds of the Australian selectors. After Steven O’Keefe’s axing, the stand out replacement was John Holland who dominated in the Sheffield Shield for Victoria with 50 wickets at an average of 20.78. Instead, Ashton Agar was selected, most likely for his all-round potential with bat and ball. This is a ‘cart before horse’ mistake with Agar’s batting governing the selection criteria.
Nathan Lyon’s effectiveness could be impacted by the absence of support he is being afforded. Lyon was brilliant in the Indian series due to the combination he formed with spin partner Steven O’Keefe. It followed the successful Indian blueprint, where Ravendra Jadeja acts as a defensive bowler thus allowing Ravichandran Ashwin to attack. The pressure Jadeja imposes on batsmen suffocates their scoring.
Agar is a fine bowling talent but there is huge doubt over whether he is capable of performing his role at this stage of his career – particularly against a very strong Bangladesh batting line-up that destroyed England’s Zafar Ansari, a similar style of bowler to Agar, in 2016. The only other option in place of Agar is leg spinner Mitchell Swepson. He is a very fine prospect, but like Agar, perhaps isn’t versed enough in his trade to be truly effective.
If the Aussie spinners are limited or worse still, dominated, it puts real pressure on the Australian fast men to be prominent in likely thankless conditions.
Ultimately, the Aussies will live and die by their batting, a batting line up that was carried in India by the exceptional efforts of their captain Steven Smith who scored 3 centuries and averaged 71.28. The rest of the batsmen have huge question marks over their ability against spin. This will be further accentuated by Shaun Marsh’s omission from the tour as he is one of the few players proven to have batting ability against spin bowling.
Australia’s batsmen will have to play at their very best against Bangladesh’s very capable spinners.
Monsoon season in Bangladesh means one certainty- rain, rain, and more deluging rain. But, if the cricket Gods are kind and the sun shines, allowing the series to go ahead and not be rained out, I think the Aussies might be in for a very rude awakening in Bangladesh.
The Tigers to win the series 1 nil. (with the other game rained out)