For the better part of the last 20 years, the duty of absorbing pressure was stacked exclusively on the shoulders of Sachin Tendulkar. On the face of an intense scrutiny from Bangladesh in the first Test, the Mumbai man was asked to act as a sponge once again and he responded with a shining hundred, his 44th in Test cricket and the spine of India’s first-innings total of 243.
The knock was incandescent not solely for the quality of shots it contained. It saved India from a hopeless situation, opening up myriad possibilities and setting up an excellent Test match, weather permitting.
Indian bowlers too should be given credit as they reduced Bangladesh to 59 for three to turn the momentum in their team’s favour when bad light and fog forced an early close to the second day’s play on Monday.
But taking a grip on the match would not have been possible without Tendulkar. The Mumbaikar, who remained unbeaten on 105, had made most of his runs on Sunday, but watching him reaching a landmark might have instilled a fresh dose of belief into the Indian camp.
With just Ishant Sharma and S Sreesanth remaining for company, Tendulkar made his intentions clear from the beginning of the day, which started 90 minutes behind schedule. As expected, Shakib al Hasan and Shahadat Hossain, the most and only successful bowlers for Bangladesh in this innings, started the proceedings.
Tendulkar pulled Shahadat and then carted Shakib over mid-wicket for boundaries as India moved ahead. There was also a hint of aggression when the maestro smashed Shakib over long-on for a six, his second in the innings as a brief smile and a shake of head conveyed his enjoyment.
The master batsman reached his milestone with a cut off Shahadat that sped past point, and that familiar celebration followed, raised hands with eyes firmly fixed on the heavens. It was an impeccable effort considering the utter irresolution at the other end, resulting in constant tumbling of wickets. Had there been a bit more support for him from a frontline batsman, India would have been in a far stronger position.
Shahdat provided the much-needed breakthrough jettisoning the sticky Ishant when the Delhi lad edged him to stumper Mushfiqur Rahim. It was Shahadat’s third five-wicket haul in Tests. Sreesanth did not last long as Imrul Kayes safely grabbed a leading edge off Shakib, giving the Bangladesh skipper a five-for, his sixth in Test cricket.
Bangladesh’s confidence, gained through a superlative effort with red cherry, reflected in their batting as well, at least in the beginning. Openers Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes faced Zaheer Khan, Ishant and Sreesanth with ease scoring nearly five runs per over as Bangladesh ended the pre-lunch session at 21 for no loss.
Light played truant, forcing a five-minute delay in the start of the post-lunch session and the hold-up, never mind the brevity, seemed to have affected the openers’ concentration. Kayes, guilty of playing across too often, finally paid for his error when umpire Billy Bowden upheld Zaheer’s shout for leg-before.
The wicket opened up an avenue the Indians were so desperately looking for and they consolidated soon when Ishant ousted Shahariar Nafees. The left-hander could not negotiate a quicker good length delivery and the ball ended in the hands of a waiting VVS Laxman at second slip after taking a thick edge.
Zaheer cut open the wounds when he sneaked the ball past Iqbal’s bat to reposition the off-stump. Just as the day began to produce sparks, elements wrapped its cold hands around the proceedings.