Bangladesh batsmen stage spirited rally

Cricket One-off Test: Shakib, Mushfiqur slam half-centuries

Bangladesh batsmen stage spirited rally
Bangladesh showed stomach for a fight for the first time but India still had the noose tight around tourists’ neck in the one-off Test match here on Saturday.

Needing an extraordinary effort to come anywhere close to India’s mammoth 687/6 declared, Bangladesh banked on their two main batsmen — Shakib al Hasan and captain Mushfiqur Rahim — to make a match out of the contest at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.

Shakib (82, 103b, 14x4) delivered but not to the level the team would have wanted, gifting his wicket away just when it looked like he and Mushfiqur were putting India through the grind on a sun-kissed day. Diminutive Mushfiqur, however, batted with a lot of responsibility to take Bangladesh to stumps at 322/6 on the third day.

Having dominated the game until the second evening, India got off to the best possible start on Saturday when a terrible mix-up between Mominul Haque and Soumya Sarkar cost the latter’s wicket in the third over of the day.

Pacers Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar then had Mominul and Mahmudullah in all sorts of trouble. While Bhuvneshwar, like always, kept things tight, Umesh had the Bangladesh sweating with a probing line.

Getting wonderful purchase from the wicket that had some early morning bite, he harried them with his pace and the full length caused a lot of indiscretion on the minds of Mominul and Mahmudullah. There were plenty of plays and misses but the duo managed to survive.

Umesh then changed ends and the trick worked for India as he trapped Mominul with a brilliant inswinger. Full and fast, he struck the 25-year-old right-hander flush on the pads to reduce Bangladesh to 64/3.

Senior pacer Ishant Sharma, replacing Umesh, then kept up the pressure his junior had created all morning. Extracting more bounce, he mixed his lengths well to keep Mahmudullah and Shakib on their toes. Ishant then produced a peach to dismiss Mahmudullah, the ball nipping back and catching 31-year-old cold.

The stage was set perfectly for ace off-spinner R Ashwin to run through Bangladesh as India sensed an early end. However, Shakib and Mushfiqur produced a brilliant counter-attack against Ashwin. Using their feet brilliantly, they hardly allowed the No 1 bowler in the world to settle into any sort of rhythm.

Premeditated shots

They stepped down the track consistently to offset Ashwin’s length and at times played some pre-meditated shots. Having bamboozled much greater rivals, Ashwin suddenly looked a bit rattled as he struggled to get a measure of Shakib and Mushfiqur. Ashwin changed his ends as well but his fortunes remained the same.

Bangladesh kept motoring on like a high speed train, collecting 74 runs in the first hour post lunch at a run-rate of 5.28 as Indians wore a stunned look. Shakib, however, handed the advantage back to the hosts, falling prey to his high-risk approach. Nearing a century, he attempted to loft Ashwin but only managed to hold out to Umesh, ending the 107-run partnership. He trudged back disappointed, knowing he had undone once again all the good work and leave his team high and dry with plenty of play left.

Skipper Mushfiqur, however, ensured Bangladesh lived to fight another day. Losing another partner in Sabbir Rahman after Shakib with over a session left, he rallied brilliantly with teenager Mehedi Hasan (51 n.o., 103b, 10x4). Curbing all his attacking instincts and mentoring the brave 19-year-old Mehedi, Mushfiqur thwarted all of India's advances. He even suffered a nasty bruise to his finger when an Ishant delivery in the last over climbed on sharply. But he was unflinching, carrying Bangladesh’s hopes of staging a miraculous recovery on his shoulders.

India, who are still very much in the drivers seat with the visitors 365 runs in arrears, will be hoping Ashwin finds his mojo on Sunday on a track yet to spit any venom.
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