Shakib Al Hasan marked the first day of his 50th Test match by scoring a half-century; on the second day, he continued the party with a five-wicket haul. There is every reason to think that by the end of this match, he might be celebrating Bangladesh’s first ever Test win over Australia. But that is getting ahead of proceedings. For the time being, Bangladesh will be content with the strong position in which they find themselves at stumps on day two.
It was a day that began brilliantly for Bangladesh. Australia walked out on 18 for 3, and within three overs they had stumbled to 33 for 4 when Steven Smith danced down the pitch, tried to flick Mehidy Hasan through the leg side and was bowled. Smith is easily Australia’s best player of spin – three centuries in four Tests in India earlier this year attest to that. To lose him in these conditions was to hand Bangladesh complete control.
There was a fightback of sorts from Australia, first through a 69-run partnership between Peter Handscomb and Matt Renshaw, and then a 49-run stand involving Ashton Agar and Pat Cummins. But Bangladesh remained well on top. By the close of play their first-innings lead of 43 had ballooned back out to 88, with nine wickets in hand. Only Soumya Sarkar, who rashly holed out to a juggling Usman Khawaja at long-on off Ashton Agar, had fallen for 15. Tamim Iqbal was set on 30, with nightwatchman Taijul Islam yet to score.
But the key man on this day, as on the first day, was Shakib, who for the eighth time in his Test career combined a half-century with a five-wicket haul. Only Ian Botham has done so on more occasions (11), though from more than twice as many Tests. Shakib also joined Muttiah Muralitharan, Rangana Herath and Dale Steyn as the only bowlers with Test five-fors against all nine possible Test opponents: next stops, Ireland and Afghanistan.
Shakib finished with 5 for 68, and created a couple more chances besides. He had a fine partner in Mehidy, who collected 3 for 62, while Taijul was the only other wicket-taker: nine wickets fell to spin, and there was one run-out. Notably, while there was decent turn, there was also variable bounce – some kept low and others kicked sharply off the surface – and this too will play on Australia’s minds when they enter their second innings.
Not that batting was impossible: Handscomb and Renshaw handled things well during their partnership, though in the end Handscomb’s habit of playing deep inside his crease brought him undone when on 33 he missed one from Taijul and was rapped on the pads dead in front. Renshaw likewise failed to capitalise on his solid start, caught at slip for 45 when he poked at a Shakib delivery shortly before lunch.
Such was Australia’s state of mental fogginess that shortly after the resumption, Matthew Wade was needlessly lbw to Mehidy for 5. Australia had both reviews remaining and the two men in the middle – Wade and Glenn Maxwell – were the last pair before the bowlers. But Wade declined to ask for a review that would have saved him – replays showed the ball would have slid down leg side and Nigel Llong’s decision would have been overturned.
Maxwell made a confident 23 before he was lured out of his crease by Shakib, who turned the ball past the outside edge and Mushfiqur Rahim completed the stumping. Shakib might have had Agar stumped as well, but some exaggerated bounce off the pitch tricked Mushfiqur as it did the batsman. Another opportunity went begging when Cummins skied one towards cover off Shakib on 11 and Shafiul Islam dropped a straightforward chance.
Cummins and Agar took those reprieves and used them to bat together for 25.2 overs, displaying impressive patience and technique that some of their top-order colleagues might learn from. For a while, it even looked like they might lift Australia close to Bangladesh’s total of 260. But on 25 from 89 balls, Cummins tried to drive Shakib through the off side and was bowled; Agar finished unbeaten on 41 off 97 when Josh Hazlewood was taken at short leg off Shakib for 5.
Australia were not the only ones struggling: umpire Aleem Dar had two poor decisions overturned on review, first when he gave Renshaw lbw off a Mehidy delivery that would have sailed well over the top of the stumps, and then when he adjudged Cummins caught behind down leg off Shafiul Islam, when all the ball had touched was thigh pad. Both times, Dar self-admonished with face-palms. Australia, all out for 217, might have collectively done the same.