Aussies battling to avoid Bangladesh embarrassment
AUSTRALIA is staring down the barrel of one of its greatest ever Test cricket embarrassments, after another batting shambles put Bangladesh in the box seat to create history.
Fighting to repair damage done by the ugly contract dispute, Australia's batsmen were instead taught a humbling lesson by the ninth-ranked minnows who engineered yet another shocking collapse by Steve Smith's men on the sub-continent.
Australia has never lost to Bangladesh in four meetings, but unless they find a way to stop a tidal wave of momentum going against them in Dhaka with the hosts already 88 runs in front with nine wickets in hand, they would find themselves only one more loss in Chittagong away from plummeting to their lowest ever Test ranking of No.6.
Of the 10 teams that play Test cricket, Australia as a collective has the worst batting average (26.69) in Asia of any side in the world including Zimbabwe.
On Monday, those deficiencies were laid bare as brain explosion followed brain explosion - Smith and Glenn Maxwell senselessly charging down the wicket into oblivion and Matt Wade failing to review an incorrect lbw dismissal when Australia was on its last legs.
Only a monumental recovery with the ball and then a fourth-innings chase on a deteriorating deck (or monsoon rain) can save Australia from a disastrous place in the record books.
Bangladesh - which has won just nine of 100 Tests in its history - showed its much more fancied opponents how it's done and went to stumps on day two 1-45 in its second dig and already well in front.
All-round sensation Shakib Al Hasan was the star, joining Muttiah Muralitharan, Rangana Herath and Dale Steyn as the only bowlers to ever take five-wicket hauls against all Test opponents.
Usman Khawaja ensured his side at least has a sniff as he held on to an outfield catch off Ashton Agar late, but not before he had fumbled Soumya Sarkar no less than four times, only to finally clutch the ball inches from the turf.
Last year Australia suffered the ignominy of not only losing to Sri Lanka for the first time, but being whitewashed by a side that has since been shown up to be below top-class standard itself.
Now it's up to the bowlers to save the side from an avalanche of pre-Ashes pressure after they gave up a first innings lead of 43, which was bad enough, but could have been much worse.
After coming together in yesterday's middle session with Australia 116 in arrears and only two wickets in hand, tailenders Agar and Pat Cummins showed the batsmen how to bat with a gutsy 49-run stand that ultimately carried the tourists from crisis mode at 8-144 to a more respectable total of 217.
Agar was superb to almost top score on 41 not out off 97 balls but had a sitter Cummins bunted into the sky when he was on 11 been held on to, it could have been game, set, match already.
"It's going to get harder and harder to bat on," Agar said.
"The Bangladesh spinners were very accurate for a long time. And they got their rewards.
"It's starting to spin a bit more off the good part of the wicket. So it's going to be some pretty tough Test cricket I think next couple of days.
"We're positive. We've had a pretty good fightback today and anything can happen on this wicket.
"Things happen so quickly when the ball is spinning and turning and as you saw tonight, a few of them nearly jumped, so we're confident that if we can get on a bit of a roll tomorrow we can knock them over (quickly)."
If Australia can't win either of the two Tests this tour, they would slump to sixth on the ICC rankings, a lower point than the dark time of the Argus Review.
Matt Renshaw is supposed to be the 21-year-old opener being shown the ropes by his seniors, but few others had any interest in applying themselves for a long innings and it was left up to the kid to set the example for those dropping like ninepins around him.
Renshaw laid down the foundations for a comeback in a 69-run partnership with Peter Handscomb, but in the end they too were guilty of lapses in concentration and with them Australia crashed like a ton of bricks, at one stage losing 4-42 to go with the 3-14 it shed to start the innings.
For all Australia's pre-match methods of not wearing front pads at training in the nets, there were lots of sore shins in the first innings in Dhaka with four lbws in total - including the first victim David Warner.
Maxwell looked smooth on his way to 23 before he also threw the game plan out the window and found himself stranded and stumped attempting to charge Shakib Al Hasan.
The only person struggling as much as the Australians was umpire Aleem Dar who made a couple of howlers - an lbw call against Renshaw and then a caught behind off Cummins - which were both successfully overturned by the tourists.
FIRST TEST AT A GLANCE
STATE OF PLAY: Bangladesh 1-45 in second innings at stumps on day two, leading Australia by 88 runs.
MAN OF THE DAY: Ashton Agar. Scored an unbeaten 41 to help the visitors save face after a dismal day with the bat, and was the sole wicket-taker for Australia in a frustrating afternoon session.
KEY STAT: Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan became only the fourth bowler to take five-wicket hauls against all nine possible Test opponents.
KEY MOMENT: Just three overs in, Australian skipper Steve Smith charged down the pitch to offspinner Mehedi Hasan and was clean bowled by a delivery that went straight past the inside edge. A sign of things to come for the visitors.
BEST QUOTE: "It's going to be hard ... any lead is competitive out there at the moment with the way the wicket's going," Ashton Agar on the mammoth task ahead of the Australians on a deteriorating pitch.