There is nothing mysterious or sexy about Bangladesh's spinners. Two left-arm orthodox spinners and an offspinner. It is not a country where anything other than conventional spin is encouraged. The country has three legspinners in first-class cricket, all of whom are routinely condemned. Left-arm bowlers who fancy bowling wristspin are told to become serious about their life.
But the cream of their crop - Shakib Al Hasan, Taijul Islam and Mehidy Hasan - are accurate, receptive and patient. They can turn the ball a mile but are effective because they know how to control the degree of turn they impart. Bowling out Australia for 217 certainly showed how they are becoming tougher to face in home conditions.
Shakib, who became only the fourth bowler to take five-wicket hauls against nine Test teams, uses the arm ball effectively against right-hand batsmen. He is also mastering the art of bowling the one that slides away from the left-handers, a difficult skill to acquire. Taijul has his limitations but he brings the batsman forward regularly, which allows him the chance to catch them on the hop at times. A straight run-up, a jump, and a delivery stride that's all arms and legs. Yet, he ties up one end more often than not. He is underrated, hardly ever spoken about even when he takes an ODI hat-trick on debut, but he does the job.
Mehidy, like Shakib and Taijul, is an accurate fingerspinner. Nothing more, nothing less. He will keep forcing the batsmen to drive but those who decide to play back to him do so with the threat of getting trapped lbw. He bowls quicker than Taijul and Shakib in Tests, and when he pitches it fuller at that pace, he can deny batsmen time to take a long stride forward, and sucker them into playing on the up.
In this Test, he already has two big scalps in the first innings, illustrating that he is a competitive bowler at the highest level.
David Warner, facing Mehidy, was getting troubled by deliveries that turned sharply away from him before playing back to a full one. Steven Smith, who ended up yorking himself against Mehidy, must have felt the tossed-up delivery was innocuous enough to jump at, but ended up paying the price. Mehidy said that the plan was in place to pitch it up right up at Smith, but from an angle dictated by his captain.
"We had a plan for Smith," Mehidy said. "When I bowled to him yesterday, Mushfiqur [Rahim] bhai told me that I should bowl around the wicket to him. If I can bowl in the right place, we can stop him. He won't be able to use his feet. There will be a chance to get him out stumped or get a catch somewhere. I listened to him, bowled around the wicket, and it made my job easy."
But there are aspects that this spin attack, despite their success in the first innings in Mirpur, have trouble grappling with. Against top-order batsmen who don't move around too much in the crease, like Matt Renshaw and Pete Handscomb, or against tailenders who will either block or bash, they look one-dimensional, hanging back on a more defensive line.
Perhaps they can be bolder in the face of a lengthy partnership, telling the captain to have more fielders around the bat, especially on a helpful pitch. Maybe they can be a bit more simplistic in their plans against tailenders, slipping in the occasional yorker or luring them out by slowing it up.
But their overall skill level, coupled with a more productive batting line-up against top attacks, has coincided with a move towards preparing more result-oriented pitches. When the Shere Bangla National Stadium was relaid entirely earlier this year, the top two layers of the pitches were taken off. What has resulted is a more brownish surface that starts off hard but breaks up rapidly. There are no puffs of dust flying off the surface but certainly plenty of bite.
There is no fault in having home advantage and in the last 12 months, for the first time as a Test nation, Bangladesh have ventured into that path. The spinners, however plain they may look or sound, are helping them take giant strides. They have given a great account of themselves by bowling Australia out cheaply in their first innings, and they now have the obligation to keep doing their job, simply.