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"Aggressive" Bangladesh eye series win over vulnerable Aussies


An emboldened Bangladesh have declared themselves ready to consign Australia to a crushing series defeat after claiming an historic victory in the first Test in Dhaka.

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Dismissed for so long as cricketing minnows, Bangladesh turned the tables on their heavyweight opponents with a 20-run win that will stand as one of their proudest achievements.

A similar triumph in next week’s second and final Test in Chittagong would result in Australia tumbling to No.6 in the world rankings.

Under their new pay deal, the top Australian players are thought to earn as much as 20 times more than some of their Bangladeshi counterparts for representing their country.

That disparity was far from evident during the first Test, with Australia’s batsmen largely unable to handle the Bangladeshi spin onslaught led by man of the match Shakib Al Hasan.

Left-arm spinner Shakib underscored his status as the world’s No.1 ranked allrounder across all formats, claiming five-wicket hauls in both digs after top-scoring with 84 in the first innings.

Bangladesh skipper Mushfiqur Rahim said his side had proven themselves capable of standing up to the Australians.

“They had aggression but we also showed that Bangladesh can be an aggressive side,” Mushfiqur said.

“They saw it in our body language, apart from how we did with the bat and ball.

“If you noticed towards the end of the first session, (Australian batsman Glenn) Maxwell tried to ensure that there was no more overs by taking up five of the six minutes.

“The Australian team were on the back foot, trying not to play an over. I thought it is a huge message.”

Questions remain about whether the Australians were mentally prepared for their first series on Bangladeshi soil since 2006.

A marathon pay dispute meant the tour was only confirmed a fortnight before the team’s departure, while security concerns had led to previous visits being scuppered.

“They found out that we are no longer the Bangladesh of old, that we now have the players who can now change the course of a match from any position,” Mushfiqur said.

“But we should be careful of not becoming too complacent.

“It is hard to get the Australian team under pressure so we must take the opportunity to win the series.”

Australia will consider playing Steve O’Keefe as one of three spinners in a desperate bid to avoid a humiliating series whitewash, after their batsmen were again found wanting in tough subcontinent conditions, collapsing either side of lunch of day four.

The only bright light for the visitors was the form of David Warner, who buried his subcontinent demons to reach triple-figures early on day four before being trapped lbw by left-arm spinner Shakib Al Hasan on 112, with Australia 3-166 midway through the first session. The wickets fell quickly thereafter.

With Josh Hazlewood headed home after suffering a side strain, there is a strong chance Jackson Bird will be overlooked in favour of a spin-heavy line-up featuring O’Keefe, Nathan Lyon and Ashton Agar.

That would leave Pat Cummins as Australia’s sole quick, with batting allrounder Hilton Cartwright potentially added to the side to provide back-up with his right-arm medium pace.

Usman Khawaja appears the most likely of Australia’s batsmen to face the axe in that scenario after scoring just two runs from two innings in a disastrous return to the Test squad.

The Australian camp had been eager to bring the elegant left-hander back into the fold after an eight-month absence, but his poor record on the subcontinent may prove impossible to ignore.

A more drastic but less likely option would be to axe wicketkeeper Matthew Wade and hand the gloves to Peter Handscomb.

Australia employed three spinners when Ricky Ponting led his side to victory over Bangladesh in Chittagong in 2006, and Smith indicated that option was again being considered.

“If it’s a similar-looking wicket to this one out here, then it’s certainly a possibility,” Smith said.

“We’ll have to wait and see when we get to Chittagong what the wicket’s like and make an assessment then.

“We’ve obviously got a few options here. In the end, it’s up to the selectors which way they want to go.”

Selectors would be wary of over-burdening Cummins when Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson are all nursing injuries but they would also be conscious of playing to the conditions.

Bangladesh spin trio Shakib Al Hasan, Mehedi Hasan and Taijul Islam were responsible for every Australian wicket in Dhaka with the exception of Khawaja’s first-innings run-out.

Lyon and Agar also bowled well, combining for 14 wickets, although Smith was frustrated by their inability to hit the right lengths as consistently as the Bangladeshi tweakers.

Smith last week said the initial decision to replace O’Keefe with fellow left-arm spinner Agar for the Bangladesh tour had been driven by the need to prepare for the next Test tour of India in 2021.

The 32-year-old O’Keefe’s career had appeared over when he was dumped from the squad despite his match-winning heroics in the first Test against India in Pune.


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