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Bangladesh in West Indies, 2009


Tamim Iqbal’s Maiden Test Century Creates Opportunity for Bangladesh.

Sohel N. Rahman, July 13th 2009.

Day four of the rain truncated first test against the West Indies at Kingstown. The second consecutive day of test cricket without rain in an interestingly poised test match where the combination of time and the possible return of bad weather is unlikely to deliver a result. Then again, cricket is a game of uncertainties, and certainly the reputation of the Bangladeshi team is a dramatic embodiment of that well-worn but always valid cliché. 

During course of play so far, Bangladeshi players and fans discovered to their collective relief that this Windies replacement team, though hastily put together and not the class of the genuine article, is no pushover to be toyed with. They are after all, first class cricketers from the formidable cricket culture of the Three Ws, Sobers-Richards-Lara, Hall-Holding-Walsh and countless other cricket immortals. So we have a competitive test match in our hands. A match that presents an opportunity for players on both sides to play some memorable cricket while the balance between their skill and character is tested over five days, give or take a few.

Day four began with Bangladesh only 43 runs behind the Windies first inning total, thanks to some clutch bowling from debutants Mohammad Mahmudullah and Rubel Hossain led by acting Skipper Shakib Al Hasan -- followed by the opening pair of Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes surviving day three with bat in hand. Before we knew it, the day quickly developed into a discomforting war of attrition occasionally mitigated by some quality strokes and deliveries.

Tamim Iqbal, the young man providing the only occasional entertainment with his bat, also provided the bulk of Bangladeshi runs as he pushed, scratched, clawed and edged his way to survival on borrowed time and a half. His partner Imrul Kayes, rightly reputed to be the more patient and compact of the two, left his often safe stroke-making ability back in the dressing room with disastrous consequences. Unable to rotate the strike, he came undone trying to release some of the pressure of his own making.

Ryan Austin teasingly tossed one up outside off for him to drive, and Kayes’ hard drive was caught at cover. He departed after making just 24 from 96 deliveries. A soft second innings dismissal after all of the hard work, especially after being victimized by yet another classic EAR de Silva dismissal in the more comfortable first, was not a total waste under the circumstances. Bangladesh lost their first wicket at 82, almost cause for a mini celebration, and former opener Junaid Siddique, having found a new way to spell his first name, came in join Tamim Iqbal in the middle.

Siddique, growing in notoriety for his oft-seen-yet-to-be-rectified technique, had an easier but definitely not smooth time with the older cherry. Lady Luck, perhaps due to her displeasure over A Shocka’s tragic return to test cricket, kept on gracing Bangladesh with her presence. Darren Sammy seemed cursed as Siddique continued to commit his front foot early, an ugly and presumptuous fetish typical of many Bangladeshi batters who actually try to move their feet every now and then. Players playing on zombie pitches back home. But he continued to survive for once and score at a better rate than his close friend Kayes. He was being a little more cautious in his lethal misjudgments and with that heavy bottom hand, and that paid streaky dividends for country, team and his stats.

Iqbal and Siddique put together a 146 run partnership, almost shockingly rare for Bangladesh, as Iqbal labored to his maiden test hundred despite occasional flashes of fatalism, dehydration and cramps before the mandated break in action.

The mandated respite rejuvenated him and he resumed his batting in a typically belligerent, nihilistic mood, especially with the new ball. That added valuable runs to the Bangladeshi lead but also led to his inevitable demise. After battering him for four consecutive boundaries, one of them edged over the slip cordon, another hit-me delivery from a rattled Bernard tempted him into an unnecessary pull shot. He mistimed it enough to be caught at mid-on, weirdly eager to deny himself the bigger hundred just around the corner. He could have, should have gone on to build on his achievement but didn’t this time. But his 128 from 243 balls left Bangladesh at a commanding 228-2.

Raquibul Hasan, with a domestic triple-hundred under his belt, came in next build on that position with a well-set Siddique, as well-set as Siddique can be, eyeing a maiden century of his own. They did alright before Siddique reached the cursed 70s, and after passing his previous highest in test cricket, inexplicably reverted back to the sport of front foot spear-fishing and edged what seemed to be a defensive stroke straight to an alert Richards at gully. A good delivery from Sammy did the trick as Siddique committed his front foot a tad too early, surprise, surprise. He was gone at 78 from 160 balls, and Sammy finally got the break he deserved. Better late than never.

Mohammad Ashraful, the once talismanic and now disgraced skipper of the side, came in with a point to prove with Bangladesh sitting reasonably pretty at 258-3, and failed once more. This time blindly swinging across the line and caught plumb in front after scoring 3 from 4 deliveries, 3 less than his first innings feat. A 100% fall in performance, even for someone as consistently inconsistent as he is, was unexpected as Bangladesh gifted a totally demoralized Windies side the glimmer of hope they perhaps deserved. Bangladesh were suddenly 261-4 with the momentum loosened from its moorings. Raquibul Hasan, the alleged anchor of the Bangladeshi test side, was surely going to put an end to that alarming development.     

Sadly Hasan, somewhat prematurely named Da Rock by his fans, continued to painfully gamble with his young career the way his strengths and limitations should not allow him to do. Although he didn’t play as many loose drives as he did in the first, he departed after trying to pull but inevitably dragging an ill-sighted short delivery from Sammy on to his stumps. Da Rock scored 18 from 35 balls, 4 four than his first innings cameo, leaving Bangladesh in early trouble at 267-5. Sammy, just freed of what seemed at times to be an endless curse, was ecstatic like a man possessed. His joy was matched only by the dark cloud looming over the heads of Bangladeshi fans everywhere. Time and again hardened by countless déjà vu, they prepared themselves for yet another batting collapse.

Thankfully, the acting Skipper Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, his gritty, Hobbit-like partner in the middle, prevented history from repeating itself and Bangladesh survived the day well in the end. Bangladesh were 321-5 at stumps after 105 overs with Al Hasan on 26 and Rahim on 28 not out. 

Going into day five, Bangladesh will have to build on their lead of 252 without losing the 5 remaining wickets. That effort must be perfectly balanced because that balance must prevent a possible loss while giving Bangladesh the chance to win their first test match abroad. No doubt it is a tough task ahead with Skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, already a survivor of four surgeries, nursing a pulled ligament and taking himself out of the attack. But as the saying goes, cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties and anything can happen, especially when least expected.


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