India buried Bangladesh under a mountain of runs on day three of the first Test at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chattogram, leaving the host to chase a mammoth 513 – 95 more than the existing world record – for victory.
On Friday morning, after excising the Bangladesh tail for the addition of just 17 runs to its overnight score, K.L. Rahul didn’t enforce the follow-on and chose to build on the 254-run first innings lead.
Though he fell for another score in the 20s (23, 62b, 3x4), Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara made full use of the opportunity.
Gill scored his maiden Test century (110, 152b, 10x4, 3x6) after four fifties, while Pujara accounted for his 19th and fastest-ever ton (102 n.o., 130b, 13x4), his first in almost four years, as India made 258 runs from nearly 62 overs. At stumps, Bangladesh was 42 for no loss.
There may be multiple reasons as to why India batted again, and batted that long. Perhaps to give its stroke-makers more time against the Bangladesh spinners ahead of the Dhaka Test and also to avoid more of its players joining the injury list.
Or the simple matter of going in only for the assured kill like an efficient volleyer would on a tennis court. It’s debatable whether that needed an insurance of a target in excess of 500. Bangladesh’s most successful chase is 217, against West Indies way back in 2009.
But Gill and Pujara revelled. Each of their innings had two contrasting phases; it all boiled gently at first before erupting like a volcano.
Gill and Rahul scored just 36 runs from the first 15 overs, nudging and steering mostly square of the wicket. But Gill shifted gears soon, scoring boundaries in quick succession, with his trademark half-cut, half-punch the stand-out shot.
Bangladesh employed the short-ball tactic, and Khaled Ahmed got Rahul to pull straight to Taijul Islam in the fine-leg area. Gill, though, wouldn’t be consumed by the ploy. At times, there were as many as seven men stationed on the leg-side, but he didn’t flinch. A slapped six over deep backward square-leg decided the winner in that battle.
Pujara, seemingly smitten by his companion’s rate of scoring, took on the bowlers, pulling and sweeping efficiently, and stepping out to play his classic whipped shots, where the bat in hand threatens to turn over the earth near the crease like a plough would.
With no breakthrough in sight, skipper Shakib Al Hasan – who didn’t bowl for the second successive day because of a rib injury – waved the white flag by bringing on part-time off-spinner Litton Das.
Gill would have none of it and welcomed him with a six over long-on. A fine reverse sweep off Mehidy Hasan got him to 99 before he reached the three-figure mark with a one-bounce four to long-on.
Pujara was on 41 off 81 balls at that stage. The 34-year-old’s next 49 balls fetched 61 runs. The ethereal patient accumulator had turned into a daring man of action.
‘Chattogram pitch improving’
Bangladesh may be down in the dumps, but all-rounder Mehidy Hasan still held out hope that the batters would come good during the 513-run fourth innings chase.
“The wicket is still quite good,” he said, after the day’s play on Friday. “The batters definitely have to bat with responsibility. Good decision-making and a clear mindset are important. The batters understand what’s needed, particularly by seeing how we got out in the first innings.”
“The wicket improves in Chattogram. Although it is a big challenge, it is also a huge opportunity for our batters to play a long innings. Two days are remaining. Playing well in this match will give a lot of confidence,” Mehidy added.
India spinner Kuldeep Yadav did not agree with the view that India displayed a negative mindset by not declaring early.
“Not really, we still have two days to go,” Kuldeep said. “We have plenty of time, 180 overs. And you cannot predict how any team bats. Sometimes 400 runs may look easy, if someone gets set and gets close. It is not that we are afraid, but we wanted to bat until the drinks break after Tea.”