There was a huge amount of hoopla leading up to the first test of the Idea Cup between India and hosts Bangladesh. From India’s loss in the recently concluded tri-series final against Sri Lanka, to Virender Sehwag’s comments that Bangladesh is an ‘ordinary’ team who cannot win because their bowlers can’t take 20 wickets.
Bangladesh had every right of believing that they can prove Sehwag wrong. And the first day itself lived up to all the hype when Shakib al Hasan, the Bangladesh skipper won the toss and elected to field first in murky conditions at Chittagong. Gautam Gambhir and the stand-in captain Sehwag were up for the opportunity to get India off to a flying start against an inexperienced Bangladeshi pace attack.
The Delhi duo put on 79 for the first wicket until Shakib al Hasan trapped Sehwag with a short delivery on the leg side only to be caught by Tamim Iqbal for a well-deserved and nearly a run-a-ball half century. The celebrations were wild among the Bangladesh players as the captain led from the front, anchoring an ‘ordinary’ bowling attack. Lanky fast bowler Shahadat Hossain then picked the wickets of Gambhir and Dravid in quick succession.
And when VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh fell cheaply to the superb bowling of the Bangladesh captain, the world’s No.1 Test team was reeling at 160/6 at tea on the first day with Sachin Tendulkar holding fort at 50 and Mishra who had just entered the crease following the wicket of the Indian wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik. Game on! Certainly, even after tea, there was no respite for the Indian batsman as the lower order crumbled like a pack of cards. Tendulkar batted exceptionally well to remain unbeaten on 76 as he ran out of partners from time to time.
On the next day, Tendulkar completed his 44th hundred in majestic fashion when he hit Shahadat Hossain, the tormentor-in-chief for two boundaries in a row. Yet Bangladesh had the upper hand in the game when India was bowled out for 243 with Tendulkar unbeaten, in what was perhaps one of his best hundreds away from home. Hossain along with Shakib al Hasan achieved five-wicket hauls in a bowling performance that proved that Bangladesh were no underdogs.
Bangladesh started off superbly with the openers Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes smashing the Indian bowlers to all parts of the ground and in the process, bringing up their 50-run partnership until Zaheer Khan struck with the wicket of Kayes who was out lbw for 23. He then bagged the wicket of Iqbal. It was then the turn of Ishant Sharma to do some major damage when he got the wicket of ICL returnee Shahriar Nafees cheaply as Day 2 ended.
Ishant on the next day continued the form he was in the previous day when he picked Mohd. Ashraful’s wicket. India was back in the game in style! Clearly, Bangladesh was losing its way like India did when Shakib al Hasan, who dazzled with the ball, fell for 17 and incidentally was caught by the Indian captain Virender Sehwag off Zaheer Khan’s bowling. After Raqibul Hasan fell of Sreesanth’s bowling, Bangladesh wicket-keeper Mushfiqur Rahim and up-coming all-rounder Mahmudullah forged a 118 run partnership, bringing the hosts close to the Indian total.
However Indian leg-spinner Amit Mishra finished off the Bangladeshi tail. Bangladesh ended their first innings at 242, just a run behind India. A considerable improvement from a precarious position of 98/6 at one stage!
It was after tea on day 3 that India began their second innings. Once again, Gambhir and Sehwag gave India a good start until Sehwag fell for 45. However, this time there was no collapse as India batted merrily till the end of the day’s play with the scoreboard reading 122/1 with Amit Mishra in at No.3 as night-watchman. Day 4 clearly belonged to India as Mishra made a surprise half-century as well as an in-form Gambhir slamming 116 of just 129 balls, in the process scoring his 5th century in as many tests, and breaking Dravid’s record of 4 centuries in 4 Tests in 2002.
Unlike the first innings, Tendulkar didn’t have a great second innings when he was partly responsible in running out a well-set Dravid for 24 as well as he was given out lbw at 16 off Rubel Hossain’s bowling. However, teams around the world have discovered over the years that when one Indian batsman fails, usually the other stands up for him.
That’s exactly what Laxman did for Tendulkar’s failure. Laxman showed how vital he is for India’s batting when he scored 69 and remained not out till Sehwag decided to declare the innings at 413/8, a far better performance the second time around. The positive aspect about this innings was that the lower-order batted well. None of Bangladesh’s bowlers impressed, therefore making people believe that Sehwag was right in his perspective that their bowlers cannot take 20 opposition wickets, which defines the lowest-ranked test team.
Bangladesh had to chase a massive target of 415 to win the Test, which was near to impossible considering India’s potent bowling attack. Yet, the war of words continued between the two teams when Shakib al Hasan believed at the end of the 4th day’s play, that the target was achievable. Despite the fact that Bangladesh were reeling at 67/2 with Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, continued from where they left off, picking early wickets.
On the final day, Tamim Iqbal showed the talent he possesses by smashing a valuable half-century until he played a silly attacking shot of the bowling of the Indian captain, giving an easy catch at first slip to Rahul Dravid, when there were just 8 minutes left before lunch. Thus Bangladesh suffered a major setback in their run-chase. Mohd Ashraful also looked promising and back in form, but Ishant made full use of the life in the pitch by bowling on good length outside the off-stump and as the ball hit Ashraful’s outside edge, Dravid accepted his second catch gleefully.
Shakib’s poor run with the bat continued when he was undone by a Amit Mishra delivery, helping Sehwag take a simple catch again at silly point, resulting in Bangladesh being in deep trouble at 145/6, with India needing just 4 wickets to win the Test. Mahmudullah and Shahadat Hossain lost their wickets due to poor footwork and shot selection, even as Mushfiqur Rahim was fighting hard at the other end.
Rahim, like Tendulkar in the first innings, was the lone warrior for Bangladesh as he didn’t get enough support from the tail enders and yet he scored his maiden test century. This century would be special for the Bangladeshi wicketkeeper as it was not only his 1st in test cricket, but also against the world’s best test side. The Indians had taunted him as ‘school-boy’ and how did he transform into a man!
Eventually, Bangladesh went on to lose by 113 runs with Rahim the last man out. It was a fighting effort which went down in vain. India would be happy with their team effort, yet their performance and their credibility as the world’s ‘numero uno’ team remains a lot to be desired.
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