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Bangladesh put on a sorry batting performance on the opening day’s play at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur. The hosts have set up the match for an innings victory for India after getting bowled out on a batting pitch for 233 in a little over two sessions. India have already knocked off 69 of that total in just 13 overs with Virender Sehwag striking the ball gloriously.
With the lone exception of Mahmudullah, the Bangladeshi batting was a sham having won the toss and deciding to bat first. The Indian bowlers got plenty of cheap wickets with most of the batsmen just not willing to stay there and gather the runs which is what Test Cricket is all about. Instead it was the usual chasing balls outside off, hitting the ball in the air and all sorts of fancy stuff that made them look like lame amateurs at this highest level.
The first breakthrough was a lucky one though for India when Imrul Kayes was given caught behind down the legside off Ishant Sharma’s first ball in the match. The left hander was unlucky as the ball had only taken the thigh pad on its way to the keeper. Tamim Iqbal, who was being attacked by Zaheer Khan’s stump to stump lines was bowled playing all around an inswinger. The left hander failed to get his frontfoot moving forward and across to cover the swing. Both the openers were dismissed for ducks! Junaid Siddique, coming into the team in place of Shahriar Nafees was the third to bite the dust quickly after gloving his pull off Zaheer down the legside to MS Dhoni to make it 13 for 3 inside the first 30 minutes!
Raqibul Hasan was the next to depart in the 12th over after Ishant Sharma induced him into a false drive on the up to produce an outside edge. Mohammad Ashraful, who was threatening all the while in counter punching the Indian attack got out in a typical school boy manner. It was just four balls after Bangladesh had lost its 5th wicket that Ashraful had jumped out to the new bowler Pragyan Ojha with absolutely no control. The former Skipper lifted his head up for a big hoick against whatever turn was there to present a basic stumping for MS Dhoni. Ashraful was living dangerously all the time with his 39 from 31 balls with 6 fours.
The Tigers were in a pathetic position at 51 for 5 and the pair of Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim showed some maturity to bat out the rest of the morning session. After lunch, Ishant Sharma and India worked hard to dislodge the technically sound Mushfiqur Rahim. Rahim, the first Test centurion was out lbw for 30 (from 61 balls) in the 32nd over after Ishant had bent his back to get the ball to skid through and strike him plumb him front. It was a 55-run partnership until then which took Bangladesh into three figures.
In the 36th over, Zaheer Khan was gifted with an easy Test wicket when the Bangladeshi Captain Shakib Al Hasan (34 from 67 balls) chased a wide ball with a terrible cut to get caught behind. Bangladesh slipped quickly to 127 for 7 and India had little work left. But that wasn’t to be as Mahmudullah got the last three tailenders to rally along with him to take Bangladesh past a moderate 200. First he added 28 runs for the 8th wicket before Pragyan Ojha dragged out Shahadat Hossain with the turn and bounce to have him stumped.
No.10 Shafiul Islam batted for 39 balls before he edged an away going one from round the sticks off Ishant to the slips. Shafiul helped Mahmudullah to put on as many as 58 runs for the 9th wicket which took the innings past Tea. The last wicket put up 20 runs with Rubel Hossain hanging in there confidently to almost help Mahmudullah reach a maiden Test hundred. However, the Bangladeshi party was spoilt by Harbhajan Singh when he finally got his first wicket by bowling a lovely off break which turned through the bat pad gate of Rubel. Mahmudullah (96* from 156 balls with 13 fours) was unfortunately stranded without getting to the magic figure. But he would have found some consolation when the Indian star players went towards him to appreciate his fighting knock.
Ishant Sharma was once again on song with both the new and the old ball to finish with 4 for 66 in 18 overs. Zaheer Khan was inconsistent according to his high levels but still picked up three wickets. Ojha and Harbhajan got plenty of turn and bounce. While Ojha got two cheap wickets, Harbhajan had very little luck on his side despite bowling superbly.
With Bangladesh folding up for 233 in 73.5 overs, India had to bat out 14 overs under the floodlights with the natural light fading away. In that period, the Bangladeshi pace trio generated good amount of pace but the ball also sped away as quickly to the boundaries. Sehwag is looking in great touch with his 41 from 40 with 6 fours with the timing of his shots being absolutely glorious. Gambhir is on 26 from 38 balls with 4 fours and had survived a couple of good balls atleast from Shafiul Islam. India is at a sound 69 for no loss in 13 overs before the light was declared as unfit for further continuation. India’s game plan is simple, bat long and once to set this match up for an innings victory.