Bangladesh showed it had stomach for a fight and displayed more than just a semblance of spirit as it reached 272 for six, chasing a mammoth 513, at stumps on day four of the first Test at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium.
Where the expectation on Saturday was for Bangladesh rollover in the face of fierce scoreboard pressure, opener Zakir Hasan shunned the pessimism to score a terrific century on his Test debut (100, 224b, 13x4, 1x6).
The 24-year-old had made his international bow nearly five years ago in a T20I match at home against Sri Lanka. That remained his sole outing on the world stage until the current Test, but the tag acquired then, of a T20 specialist, has stuck on, despite him having scored more than 1000 runs each in the last two First Class seasons, and a fine 173 against the visiting India-A side recently.
Saturday should clearly demonstrate that while there are bursts of dynamism in his batting, none of it is furiously hyperactive as is often seen in the shortest format. The drives were clean and mostly along the ground, cuts deft and pulls controlled. In the company of Najmul Hossain Shanto (67, 156b, 7x4), he ensured that the hosts did not lose a wicket in the opening session (119/0).
After lunch, even as wickets fell at the other end, starting with Umesh Yadav’s breakthrough dismissal of Najmul wherein Rishabh Pant completed a fine reflex effort after Virat Kohli fumbled the catch at first slip, Zakir’s was a stoic presence.
The ball turned and bounced, but the southpaw didn’t recoil, even taking the aerial route against Kuldeep Yadav, who had left the Bangladesh batters confused in the first innings. Zakir hoisted Kuldeep over long-off to move into the 90s and got to the century with a swept four behind square.
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His downfall, however, came immediately after, when his forward defence to a ball from R. Ashwin went off the pad into Kohli’s hands at slip.
Axar Patel was the pick of the bowlers (27-10-50-3), with all three of his dismissals in the classic left-arm off break spinner’s mold. Yasir Ali and Mushfiqur Rahim were both castled by deliveries that were bowled from slightly wide and above the eyeline, pitching on the middle-and-off-stump line and turning away.
Nurul Hasan dragged his feet out trying to reach for the ball only for Pant to remove the bails in a flash.
Shakib Al Hasan and Mehidy Hasan Miraz resisted, putting on 34 for the seventh wicket. Skipper Shakib hoicked Axar for a six and a four straight down the ground and then despatched Kuldeep over extra-cover for four and over deep mid-wicket for six.
He even farmed the strike to face Kuldeep and Axar, mindful of the left-hander vs. left-armer match-up that’s ubiquitous in the T20 landscape. It didn’t matter that Mehidy, the batter, had played a pivotal role in Bangladesh’s ODI series win over India and looked most comfortable in the first innings.
But for how long can such creative thinking shrink the room for the bruising reality on an Indian win? Sunday will tell.