| Bangladesh’s Sanwar Hossain sweeps one en route to his 46 on the first day of the second Test against Australia in Cairns on Friday. (AFP)
Cairns: Bangladesh, the most humbly ranked of the Test cricket nations, punished world champions Australia on the opening day of the second Test here Friday.
Confounding the critics who predicted they would be humiliated on a pitch which seemed likely to be fiery, the visitors hammered a convincing first innings 289 for eight wickets at Bundaberg Stadium.
Sent in by Australian captain Steve Waugh when he won the toss, Bangladesh cracked their second best first innings score at Test level.
The only time they did better was in a clash with India in Dhaka in 2000-01 when they slammed 400.
Not out at stumps were ninth-wicket pair Tapash Baisya (21) and Mashrafe Mortaza (seven), who had high hopes of guiding their side past the psychologically important 300-run mark Saturday.
Only a five-wicket haul by leg-spinner Stuart MacGill, deputising for the banned spin wizard Shane Warne, kept the home side in the contest as Bangladesh attacked in defiant fashion.
MacGill, making the most of his opportunities, claimed five for 77 from 24 probing overs — a marvellous effort by a slow bowler on a first-day pitch which was supposed to be a fast bowler’s delight.
Hannan Sarkar top-scored with 76, including nine boundaries, from 136 balls.
Strong support came from Habibul Bashar (46 from 79 balls), Sanwar Hossain (46 from 91 balls) and Khaled Mashud (44 from 115 deliveries).
Mashud and Baisya combined late in the day for a record eighth-wicket partnership for their country.
They collected 51, beating the previous best of 46 by Akram Khan and Enam-ul-Hoque against Zimbabwe in 2000-01.
Speed pair Jason Gillespie (two for 58) and Brett Lee (one for 88) were the other wicket-takers for Australia.
New-ball bowler Glenn McGrath, rated among the world’s best, sent down 16 overs without bothering the batsmen.
“We made 400 in our first Test against India (three years ago),” Sarkar told a news conference. “After that this is our greatest day in Test cricket because it’s against Australia. I think this was my best innings so far because I played confidently.”
Asked if he thought Bangladesh could win the game, Sarkar smiled and said: “I can’t say anything.”
“We are about trying to play as well as we can. We don’t talk about winning and losing,” said coach Dav Whatmore. “It was very pleasing to see I must admit.”
Whatmore said after Bangladesh had made just 97 and 178 in Darwin last week, low scores would not be tolerated again.
“I think I can be forgiven for looking at that bar being raised a bit, now that there is a reasonable standard set against this sort of opposition, there’ll be a high expectation generally against other opposition as well,” Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup-winning coach said.
MacGill said he was surprised the Cairns pitch had taken spin on the first day’s play. “I’m not really sure what happened,” the 32-year-old told a news conference.
“Even though it was supposed to be a quick bowlers’ wicket, I sort of love a bit more pace. I’m much more at home on a wicket like this than I would be on a slow, dusty one.”
MacGill said he had been impressed with Bangladesh’s patience.
“They just let the ball go and were happy to do that. They were really, really committed to that plan. That’s a fantastic improvement,” the Australian said.
“I think this could be quite a good game now. Tomorrow and the next day are going to be pretty good batting days.”