Australia's juniors fight after seniors desert again

Ashton Agar broke through for Australia late on the second day Getty Images

If Australia's first innings in Dhaka recalled the very worst memories of their abortive Test tour to Sri Lanka last year, and plenty of other Asian misadventures besides, it was due to the responsibility abrogated by more senior members of the batting order. If it offered any evidence that such days will not last forever, it was through the promise shown by the likes of Ashton Agar.

After David Warner again showed his troubling ability to miss straight balls on the back foot, and Usman Khawaja marked his return to No. 3 by trying to take the most scatterbrained of singles after not offering a shot, the captain Steven Smith matched his fellow veterans of that Sri Lanka tour by running needlessly past an offbreak in the first thirty minutes of day two.

In being teased down the wicket but not showing due care and attention, Smith reprised his dismissal to Rangana Herath at a near-identical juncture in Kandy, a first match where Australian favouritism evaporated like the rain that has briefly held up both days of this match. Smith's error left the tourists at 33 for 4, a hole from which they were never likely to fully extricate themselves and the sort of situation on which their appalling Asian batting record - by average inferior even to Zimbabwe over the past decade - has been based.

What remained was the need for a salvage job, in order to close the gap between the sides and leave Smith and his bowlers with some chance of restricting Bangladesh's lead ahead of what will be a spiteful fourth innings to bat on. What's telling is how the batsmen - who did best to restore some parity - were all players still very much in learning-mode.

As was the case in India earlier this year, both Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb showed strong awareness of their own games and a willingness to stick to them despite pressure from the host's spinners. For Renshaw, this meant stretching a long way forward in defense and trusting the spinning ball to do too much, then rotating strike with occasional deflections and attacking anything too full or too short. On one occasion, he unfurled a sweep shot of considerable power - of the kind Matthew Hayden once used to great effect.

Handscomb's way is a little less orthodox, testing the nerves of many by staying back in his crease to full deliveries and backing himself to get bat to them. Sometimes this seems too difficult a task, as when he was given lbw early in the innings but reprieved on a DRS referral. But Handscomb has previously acknowledged this method will occasionally look awkward, particularly when dismissed. Nevertheless he is determined to stick to it, and when demonstrating his own hard sweep, Handscomb seemed the most likely man to bring the decidedly crafty Shakib Al Hasan to heel.

In the end, both Renshaw and Handscomb made the sorts of contributions they had offered up in India: rich in promise but short of match-turning duration. That left the day's other substantial partnership to be formed by Agar and Pat Cummins, who between them have been the subject of enormous hope for the future even as they have played a combined seven Test matches over as many years since Cummins' 2011 debut in Johannesburg.

That match was ended when Cummins struck the winning runs, and this time his good sense and simple technique led to his highest Test tally, albeit with the help of a dropped catch off Shakib's bowling. Agar, meanwhile, took his time to work out how to play the conditions in a manner that put more senior teammates to considerable shame, looking as capable of batting higher than No. 8 as he had once looked no-one's idea of a No. 11 during his celebrated 2013 debut-partnership with the late Phillip Hughes in Nottingham.

The bat sponsor has changed, the hair has been shaved back and the face shows a few more signs of age, but Agar's simple and organised method, with those supple wrists and that easy power, remains intact. His preference for attack was shown when he ventured down the wicket first ball, missed, and was reprieved by how much the ball bounced - beyond the reach of wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim.

"After my first ball, which I had a bit of luck on, I thought I might as well make them pay, and spend some time out there," Agar said. "[The plan was] pretty much just watch the ball and try and make good decisions. Hit mostly with the spin. They bowled quite well to their credit, the spinners were quite tough at times and you just had to wait for a bad ball and something to capitalise on.

"It's going to get harder and harder to bat on. The Bangladesh spinners were very accurate for a long time, and they got their reward. Shakib got five wickets and bowled quite nicely and Mehidy [Hasan Miraz] bowled quite nicely as well. It's hard to hit when you hit a good length, it's really tough to score, sometimes you have to take a risk and that's often when they get the wicket. It is going to get a bit tougher."

Prominent throughout was Agar's tendency to keep his bat well in front of his pad in a concerted effort to avoid lbws. "We talk a lot about that," he said. "We say 'don't get beaten on the inside edge of the bat.' When the ball spins, it generally spins a long way and it's not too often you're going to get bowled on the outside edge because the ball spins too far. So if you cover the inside edge, make sure you don't get hit on the pad, that's when you're pretty safe. It is hard to do but you have to have good focus when you're out there."

Agar's focus was in evidence once more when he bowled late in the day, claiming Australia's only wicket in the final session despite waiting for both Nathan Lyon and Glenn Maxwell to take the ball first. In the penultimate over of the evening, Agar moved over the wicket and tempted Soumya Sarkar to challenge a leg-side field set tantalisingly in from the boundary rope. Khawaja's catch needed a frantic juggle, but there had been plenty of thought in the entrapment - much of it stemming from the spin coach S Sriram.

"Sri's wonderful, he's full of ideas and helps me," Agar said. "He sees little things you don't see when you're bowling and we were just talking about the length I need to bowl and trying to work on that and get loose for my next spell of bowling. Always better to do that, than go out there after you've been sitting down for however long it may be. And just little things that he might pick up about my action."

Bad, therefore, as Australia's second day in Dhaka appeared, there was evidence of the players and the methods that may well do better on Asian shores in the future - whether it be in this match, in this series or in those to follow.