Australia lose Smith but build solid platform

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warner-of-AustraliaAustralia 173-2 (Warner 68*, Smith 58, Handscomb 37*) Bangladesh 305 (Mushfiqur 68, Sabbir 66, Lyon 7-94)

Australia’s captain Steven Smith played around a straight delivery from Taijul Islam just as the visitors appeared to be setting a platform to surpass the Bangladesh first innings total on the second afternoon of the second Test in Chittagong.

Having lost Matt Renshaw early on to an excellent catch by the home team captain Mushfiqur Rahim, Smith and his deputy David Warner looked largely untroubled in adding 93 runs in good time, before Smith appeared to lose concentration and left an inviting gap for Taijul’s slow left-arm spin to skid through into middle stump. It was a moment that undid the good work from earlier, with only five specialist batsmen chosen for Australia in this match.

Nathan Lyon’s dismissal of Mushfiqur in his first over of the day, and then that of the last man Taijul Islam, had given the offspinner handsome figures of 7 for 94, yet at the same time suggested that Australia’s top order had their work cut out in reply – Smith’s men must win the Test to avoid handing Bangladesh only the fourth series victory in their history.

Ashton Agar provided useful support, while the recalled Steve O’Keefe finished wicketless, and Pat Cummins looked mercifully less exhausted following his demanding day-one stint as Australia’s only pacer.

Renshaw’s stay ended when he glanced Mustafizur Rahman too fine to avoid being snaffled by a diving Mushfiqur – the first wicket to fall to a Bangladesh pacer in the series.

Smith had started the day with a refreshed Cummins and O’Keefe, but it took Lyon’s introduction to tease out a desperately needed breakthrough. Mushfiqur did not quite reach the pitch of a sharp-turning off break that he succeeded only in dragging back onto his stumps with a heavy helping of overspin.

At the other end, Agar arrived at the bowling crease and drew Nasir Hossain to cut a flatter delivery that was perhaps too close to him for the shot. The resultant edge brought a third fine dismissal of the innings for the wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, who will also need overdue runs to shore up his place in the team ahead of the home Ashes series in November.

Mehidy Hasan looked good for a few runs, but was then undone when he hesitated on a second run and found himself comfortably short with Warner throwing down the stumps after a live-wire chase from backward point – another instance of fine fielding to match some of Wade’s efforts in Chittagong’s considerable heat.

Taijul advanced to loft Glenn Maxwell over wide long-on, and pushed Bangladesh beyond 300, before an attempt to hit Lyon just as far resulted in an outside edge held sharply by Smith at slip. The dismissal brought the innings to a close and rewarded Lyon with his third seven-wicket haul in six years in Test cricket.

Following Renshaw’s loss in the minutes preceding lunch, Smith played positively to drive Australia’s response, while Warner played an uncustomary supporting role. While the occasional delivery turned disconcertingly, these were mainly negotiated with skill and poise by the touring team’s leaders, notably forcing Mehidy to revert to bowling from over the wicket to Smith, after his success from around the stumps in Mirpur.

Shakib Al Hasan also appeared to have been vanquished, compelling Mushfiqur to replace him with Taijul as tea approached. Where most of Shakib’s deliveries had straightened down the line, Taijul’s first continued to arrow in with the arm, and Smith failed to make the appropriate adjustment. The loss of the captain left Australia somewhat vulnerable, even as Warner continued to look secure in the company of Peter Handscomb.

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