Pink ball Test: Different colour, same pasting

Pink ball Test: Different colour, same pasting

Bangladesh's Nayeem Hasan's off-stump is knocked off by Indian paceman Ishant Sharma on the opening day of the pink ball Test at the Eden Gardens on Friday. PTI

The Cricket Association of Bengal put up a great spectacle to mark the maiden pink ball Test on the Indian soil. The chief minister of Bengal Mamta Banerjee accompanied Bangladesh prime minister Shaikh Hasina before the start of the match even as several Indian cricket stalwarts converged at the Eden Gardens to celebrate what is being dubbed the “historic” occasion.

The Kolkata crowd responded in a magnificent way, filling up more than 45000 seats and creating a buzz that only Eden can. Interesting cricket talks mixed seamlessly with soothing cultural events through the day. Now, if only the contest between the two sides was as riveting.

The place and the setting were different, conditions varied vastly from Indore, the venue for the first Test, and more importantly, the colour of the ball too was different. Bangladesh, however, remained as incompetitive. If anything, they offered even more feeble challenge as India took control of the D/N Test here on Friday.

Though Bangladesh got the best conditions to bat, they once again came a cropper against a fiery Indian pace attack. Good length balls uprooted stumps regularly while bouncers struck on the helmet menacingly. The visiting batsmen were left wondering whether to protect their wickets or themselves. It took India a mere 30.3 overs and less than two sessions to blow away 12 Bangladeshi batsmen (including concussion substitute Mehidy Hasan for the injured Liton Das) for a modest 106.

While India did lose both their openers with the total reading 43, Cheteshwar Pujara (55, 105b, 8x4) and Virat Kohli (59 n.o., 93b, 8x4) shut the small opening that Bangla had managed. At close on an extended opening day, India were 174 for three in 46 overs having taken a handy 68-run lead. Ajinkya Rahane (23 n.o.) was giving Kohli, who brought up his 5000 Test runs as captain on the day, the company.

Slow to begin with, Pujara typically shifted gears and sped to a half-century. Kohli, on the other hand, was in a different zone, essaying one exquisite drive after another. Making a mockery of ball-sighting issue in the night, the Indian skipper initially dominated the 94-run stand with Pujara before the latter joined the party.

The day, though, clearly belonged to Indian pacers and particularly Ishant Sharma (5/22) who claimed his first fifer on the Indian soil after 12 years. His first one came in Bengaluru against Pakistan in 2007. Having drawn first blood in the shape of opener Imrul Kayes, the 31-year-old paceman returned to attack to rip apart the visiting batting line-up. While Ishant was incisive without being menacing, Umesh Yadav (3/29) and Mohammed Shami (2/36) were all fire and brimstone. Shami, in fact, forced two of Bangladeshi batsmen to retire with concussions, further adding to their batting woes.

Liton Das was struck flush on his helmet’s crest and though the batsman continued to bat, he began to feel uncomfortable a few minutes later. Left-arm spinner Mehidy replaced him in the post-tea session. In the twilight zone when ball-sighting was becoming difficult, Shami was at it again. This time the Indian quick hit Nayeem Hasan who, like Liton, continued to bat before being dismissed by Ishant. The off-spinner, however, had to retire following aftereffects of the impact in the change room and was replaced by Taijul Islam.

Such was the dominance of Indian pacers that Kohli utilised them for all but one over of Bangladesh innings with only Ravindra Jadeja getting a chance to turn his arm. As expected, the fresh pink ball did a lot in the first session. After a few initial overs when there appeared to swing little, it began move prodigiously late in its path. The Indian pacers were smart to understand this occurrence and cut down their pace to control the movement of the ball. With Ishant regularly hitting the right lengths, Bangladesh batsmen found themselves in all sorts of trouble.