Gloves off in Aussie Test battle
CRICKET: Steve Smith has cast serious doubt over wicketkeeper Matthew Wade's chances of playing the second Test, as the pressure mounts on Australia to take aggressive, desperate gambles.
A forecast of incessant rain and thunderstorms for all five days in Chittagong has left Australia with no choice but to go on an all-out attack to take 20 wickets at rapid pace if it's to save face and the series against Bangladesh, after Smith admitted the side was "embarrassed" at its first Test efforts.
The looming option for Australia to either play four bowlers plus all-rounder Hilton Cartwright or five specialists has left Wade's Test career hanging by the barest thread, with part-timer Peter Handscomb told to prepare for the prospect of taking over the gloves.
Handscomb was set to practice his keeping at training on Sunday - although rain threatened to wash out Australia's session, adding even further complications.
Presuming there is a Test to play, Wade's best hope could be if Usman Khawaja is cut instead, however even an 11th-hour stay of execution for the keeper may not save him from the Ashes axe as Smith demanded more from the man behind the stumps.
"We are still talking about it. It's obviously an option. We have got Petey here who can keep and that will give us the option to play another spinner or another batter, whatever we want to do," Smith said.
"We certainly have that option there if we want to take it.
"It certainly would be a tough call. I think when we are looking at Matty we just need a little bit more from him with the bat in particular.
"He's had nine Tests (back) now and (he has one 50). He knows this, he knows that he has to do a little bit better with the bat and he's had those conversations. It'll just depend which way we want to go on the balance of the team."
Smith indicated Handscomb could soon come into play as a keeping option for Australia at ODI level as he prepares to take the gloves for Victoria in the one-day cup.
As of Sunday Handscomb had not practised his keeping at all on tour - forgoing that opportunity during Australia's main session on Saturday - however, Smith insisted he would be ready to go.
"We'll think about it and if we need him to take that role then he will have a catch at training and he'll be good to go," he said.
"He's been working on his keeping before we came away and I think he's taking the gloves for Victoria in the one-dayers when he gets home. He certainly has kept and we've seen him keep before and he's done a good job. If we go that way we are confident he will do a good job."
Smith conceded his team was embarrassed by its first Test performance with the bat and must shape up.
"Obviously last week didn't go to plan and we're all hurting after the game and a bit embarrassed about our performance," said Smith.
"We've got to turn it around this week and start playing some good cricket."
Smith expects the pitch will play lower and won't take as much spin early as Dhaka and won't have the same wild variations in bounce.
However, in one of the most open-ended selection debates in recent times, Smith admitted that he could not guarantee Usman Khawaja was safe at No.3 either - with Cartwright in the wings.
"I'm not sure yet, we'll wait and see. We've got a few options to play a few different guys," Smith said.
"If we go in with one quick we might need Hilton to bowl a few overs and we've got a whole heap of options. We want another look (at the wicket) and we'll make a final decision there."