When Steve Smith’s Australian side take the field tomorrow at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium, Mirpur in the suburbs of Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, it will be a rare sight indeed. It is 11 years, and four cancelled tours, since Australia last deemed Bangladesh worthy of playing in a Test match.
Not they bothered to play them much before then either – this two-match series is only the third ever between the two sides, and only Australia’s second visit to Bangladesh since the Tigers were admitted as a Test side 17 years ago.
Of those paltry four matches played between the sides, Australia have won all four, but much has changed since 2006, and the hosts will be no pushover this time around. Although Bangladesh have only won nine of their 100 Test matches played since their elevation to Full member status in 2000, two of those wins have come in the last twelve months – a first ever win against England at home and an away victory against Sri Lanka. They have also taken great strides in one-day cricket, and are especially dangerous in home conditions. They will be confident they can push Australia hard and cause an upset.
Australia have not played Test cricket since their series loss in India in March, and will be hoping that they can emulate their performance in the first test of that series in Pune rather than the following three.
An intriguing series awaits. There are a few significant personal milestones likely to be established also:
Nathan Lyon (Australia)
Australia’s leading spin bowler, the most-capped player in the squad, will be hoping subcontinental conditions are to his liking – you would certainly back him to take the three wickets he needs to bring up 250 for his country in Tests.
Currently sitting on 247, he also needs just one to draw level with the legendary Richie Benaud in eighth spot in Australia’s all time wicket takers list – a wonderful achievement for the man from Young in New South Wales.
If the pitch is a real turner, he might even take the 12 wickets he needs to move up one spot higher, alongside Jason Gillespie’s 259 in seventh place.
Steve Smith (Australia)
With his unorthodox but evidently highly effective batting action, captain Smith has already notched up a remarkable 20 centuries for the Australians in Tests. Just one more in this test will see him move into joint ninth place for his country alongside the fabulously mustachioed David Boon and Neil Harvey.
Shakib-Al-Hasan and Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh)
Bangladesh’s two leading test run-scorers will both notch up their 50th Test appearances in this first test.
Shakib is also far and away the Tigers’ leading wicket-taker too, and sits proudly as the ICC’s highest ranked all-rounder in Tests (and ODIs and T20Is for that matter!) A hugely underrated player on the world stage, he will be hoping to add to his 179 wickets.