The Australian cricket team’s first defeat at the hands of Bangladesh left its fans shocked and angry. The majority were expecting an easy win against the ‘minnows’ of the cricketing world. This reaction has been followed by a sense of denial, with the defeat being dismissed as a ‘few bad days at the office’, to be compensated for when the second test starts on Monday.
A team on the rise, it seems apparent that the Bangladesh team has been vastly underrated by the Aussies. Playing in their home conditions, Bangladesh will be very difficult to beat in the second test, especially with the inclusion of star batsman Mominul Haque. A fabulous player in spinning conditions, he will add steel to the team’s fragile top 3.
Looking at the Aussies, it is hard not to view them as the orchestrators of their own demise. Veterans Shaun Marsh and Steve O’Keefe, who have proven themselves in Asian conditions in the past, were omitted from the initial 13 man squad and were sorely missed. When Josh Hazelwood was ruled out of the second test with injury, his place could have been taken by young leg spinner Swepson with his first cap in Chittagong or another paceman, Jackson Bird. Instead the selectors have performed a huge back flip by sending an SOS to Australia for Steven O’Keefe. The move points to the certainty of three spinners being selected to play in Chittagong.
The aside is the potential for Pat Cummins to be expected to carry the pace burden supported by the likely inclusion of Hilton Cartwright. This move will accentuate the ‘bits and pieces’ demeanour of the team as Cartwright is a fine batting prospect but a medium pace bowler in name alone. His uninspiring Sheffield Shield average of 44.68 underlines this. He should replace Glenn Maxwell at 6.
Maxwell is a a similar all rounder in name alone with his bowling abilities easily replicated by Steven Smith bowling leg spin. But, Usman Khawaja is likely to be axed after another clueless showing against spin.
I anticipate the 11 players to be selected will be as follows;
Renshaw, Warner, Smith, Handscombe, Cartwright, Maxwell, Wade, Agar, Cummins, O’Keefe, Lyon
The maverick Maxwell has once more proven that he lacks the temperament for test cricket. An example of this was his dismissal in the second innings with his first ball after lunch an ill advised cut shot. The shot highlighted the poor decision making that was so evident in all the batting. With the ball spinning and variable bounce, playing with a straight bat was of paramount importance and the cut shot in such conditions needed to be shelved. This seemed lost on all the batsmen with 4 of them falling to the shot during the second innings.
In looking to a fight back in the second test it is hard to fathom any success for Australia as a result of their batting. They have the lowest batting average (26.69) of any team visiting Asia in the last decade. To put this in context, even Zimbabwe has performed better with the bat. Shaun Marsh was certainly missed in the team’s batting line-up and the bottom line is that all the batsmen, on differing levels, lack the necessary skill and temperament in the conditions.
Another key factor for the Aussies is Matthew Wade behind the stumps. Australia lost by 20 runs in the first test with the butter fingered wicket keeper conceding 30 byes. If the team is to rise in the second test, he needs to go. His accompanying batting average of 21.25 since being recalled in 2016 offers no justification for his retention in the 11. Fans may suggest Peter Handscombe as a replacement, but this would merely relive the shambolic Wayne Phillips experience from the 1980’s. The fact that there is no other keeper to replace Wade, however, will save him.
Luckily for Aussie cricket fans, footy finals are currently in full swing which will help divert their attention because the team is likely to again be humbled in the second test which will complete a series clean sweep.