Sam Ferris is a Sydney-based journalist for cricket.com.au. He started in 2011 as a Big Bash League correspondent and continues to monitor the domestic scene and national sides closely.
Test batsman Peter Handscomb has revealed the raw details of his gutsy knock in Chittagong that helped Australia salvage a series draw against Bangladesh.
Handscomb could have been dubbed the 21st century’s ‘corpse with pads’ but unlike fellow Victorian Bill Lawry – who earned the morbid nickname due to his slow scoring rate – the 26-year-old actually resembled the walking dead after a suffocating stint at the crease.
Under the baking Bangladesh sun Handscomb was pale as a ghost and drenched in sweat from head to toe, so exhausted from the sapping heat and humidity that at one point he couldn’t keep down the liquids he was desperately attempting to replace.
“It was just ridiculously hot,” Handscomb told cricket.com.au.
“Even though the temperatures may have been late 30s, which is something we’re quite used to in Australia, because it had been raining on the days leading up to the game the heat was basically coming from underneath you, coming out of the ground because the water was evaporating.
“I was just getting nailed heat-wise from both the ground and the sky and couldn’t get enough fluids in to make myself feel better, and then if I drunk a little bit too much I started to feel sick.
“We fielded first in both games, so already you’re pretty cooked going into your first batting innings.
“Just standing out there in that heat, that sun – it takes it out of you.
“At each break I had to change all my clothes because they were just drenched with sweat.
“I’m just a natural sweater … it was just taking it out of you and you couldn’t replace the water you were losing.”
Handscomb entered six overs before tea on day two with Australia 2-98 trailing by 207 runs.
After the 20-minute interval, he and David Warner willed each other through to stumps, but not before they added 127 vital runs and lost bucket loads of fluids in the process.
Together the pair defied Bangladesh’s spin assault and the unforgiving foreign conditions, spurring one another on as they refused to yield to the oven they were slowly roasting in.
“We had a couple of sentences that we’d say to each other between overs to make sure we were switching on and focusing on each ball that was coming down,” Handscomb said.
“It was just basically ‘keep going’.
“Then if one of us played a poor shot or wasn’t quite on for a certain ball we’d walk down and again repeat those sentences just to make sure it wasn’t going to be the weather that was going to get us out; we had to make sure it was going to be a good ball.”
That afternoon Handscomb scored 64 to Warner’s 46, and perhaps the accelerated run scoring was the catalyst for his body to start to shutting down.
In between deliveries he looked as though he was trying figure out whether he was in Chadstone or Chittagong, but he says facing up to each ball, determined not to be beaten by the heat, got him through.
“It was a weird one, because as it was all going on and I was struggling in between balls, it really made me focus on every ball that was coming down,” he said.
“Almost focus harder (than usual) because there was this drive to be like ‘don’t let the heat get me out, it’s got to be a good ball to get me out’.
“There was this big drive to concentrate each ball.
“That helped but in between balls it was quite tough.
“Trying to control the sweat and trying to cool myself down was almost impossible.”
The next day, replenished and rested as much as possible, Handscomb had three figures in his sights.
But Warner was significantly closer to his own hundred and reached 99 early on day three while his partner had moved to 82.
Dot ball after dot ball after dot ball, Warner was determined to wait for the loose delivery to pick off the single he required.
Handscomb was ready, only he was too ready. A tuck to the leg-side and the Victorian skipper was off but Warner firmly sent him back.
A direct hit at the non-striker’s end from Tigers veteran Shakib Al Hasan uprooted a stump and Handscomb, despite a desperate dive, was dismissed.
“Yeah, just backing up too far, completely my fault,” he said.
“It was one of those things, obviously you want to get your mate to a hundred but in the grand scheme of things it’s one run.
“It’s actually quite frustrating to get out that way because if we were just relaxed we were going to get the single at some stage and I didn’t really need to back up that far to get the single.”
That frustration was perhaps the culmination of missed opportunities in Asia, first in India and then Bangladesh.
In 11 innings out of 12 in the subcontinent this year Handscomb passed 15. Those solid foundations resulted in just two half-centuries: a match-saving unbeaten 72 in Ranchi and the 82 in Chittagong.
“Basically every innings in the subcontinent so far I’ve managed to get a start bar one,” he said.
“It was frustrating not to go on with it more than I did.
“I managed to get 70 against India and 80 against Bangladesh but I really felt in control in that innings in Chittagong so it was going to be a good opportunity to get a subcontinent hundred.”