Bangladesh shows some positive signs

BANGLADESH has started showing some signs of improvement. The end result against Pakistan in the first Test of the three-match series was no better than what had happened in the past 20 of the 21 Test matches it has played.

RIZWAN EHSAN ALI

BANGLADESH has started showing some signs of improvement. The end result against Pakistan in the first Test of the three-match series was no better than what had happened in the past 20 of the 21 Test matches it has played. But the fact is that the Bangladeshis have started realising that a Test match is meant to be played for five days. Under coach Dav Whatmore and with the passage of time, Bangladesh would surely learn how to cash in on the opportunities — and they had plenty of them in the Karachi Test. The seven-wicket victory by Rashid Latif's new-look team (with four Test caps) might sound a comfortable one, but the Pakistan captain did not sleep comfortably as the match took numerous twists and turns.

Debutant Yasir Hameed in a punishing mood. He scored a century in each innings to win the Man-of-the-Match award. - Pic. AFP-

The only major question — which looks ominous on the field — is why the Bangladesh Cricket Board has chosen Khaled Mahmud to lead the side? He is an average fielder, a hopeless bowler and knows little about how to bat!

Maybe it sounds a bit harsh on any international captain but the reality is that Bangladesh is not going to progress if Mahmud is going to be its long-term captain. A leader is one who sets example for his players. But that's not the case with Mahmud.

A 25-year-old batsman from Peshawar, Yasir Hameed grabbed a long-awaited chance with both hands and made a dream debut to cement his place at Pakistan's troublesome No. 3 position. He became only the second player in Test history to score a century in each innings. It was 32 years ago that West Indian Lawrence Rowe achieved a similar feat against New Zealand at Kingston, Jamaica in his debut Test.

Yasir, who has played five one-day internationals this year, had to wait for a long time to get his turn. He has scored prolifically in domestic cricket since making first class debut in 1996-97 season against Karachi and in 61 first class appearances, has scored 3311 runs with an average of 36.78.

His first Test innings of 170 helped Pakistan take a 58-run first innings lead with a score of 346 after Bangladesh made 288, thanks to Habibul Bashar's 13th Test half century. Bashar succeeded in removing the tag of Mr. Fifty, in the second innings when he equalled his Test best of 108, but a lower middle-order collapse at the hands of debutant seamer Shabbir Ahmad saw Bangladesh lose five wickets for 23 runs to give Pakistan a small victory target of 217 runs in more than five sessions of play.Yasir was quick to grab the opportunity and made a splendid 105 that helped Pakistan take a 1-0 lead in the series.

Pakistan, playing for the first time in the post Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis era, gave Test caps to medium fast bowlers Shabbir Ahmad, Umer Gul along with Yasir and opener Mohammad Hafeez. After being put in, Bangladesh had an early jolt when Umer Gul's 12th delivery in Test cricket yorked Javed Omar's middle-stump. But with the arrival of Bashar, Hannan Sarkar also grew in confidence and the two put on 114 runs and denied Pakistan success for over two hours.

Shoaib Akhtar, who left his English county Durham for the first two Test matches of the series, was hit for three fours by Bashar in the first spell as the dashing right-hander completed his half century off 49 deliveries and hit eight fours. Sarkar was however lucky to survive two close calls. Yousuf Youhana failed to hit the stumps when Sarkar was more than half way down the wicket and Shabbir overstepped only to see Misbahul Haq take an easy catch.

Bangladesh added 93 more runs in the second session, but had to pay a heavy price of four wickets. Shabbir got his revenge and removed Sarkar for 41 runs while Shoaib had the wickets of Bashar (71 off 72 balls with 12 fours) and Sanwar Hossain.

Bangladesh's Razin Saleh, who was in the 12-man squad which played the inaugural Test against India in 2000, made his mark with a patient 46 before he became one of leg-spinner Danish Kaneria's three victims.

Before bad light brought an early closure with seven overs still remaining, Bangladesh took its score to 278 for nine with Shabbir and Gul grabbing one more wicket each.

It was Yasir's day when play resumed on the second day. After dismissing Bangladesh for 288, Pakistan's start was no better either as Mohammad Hafeez was caught in two minds and top edged to Javed Omar in Mashrafe Bin Murtaza's second over. But Yasir and Taufeeq with a stand of 97 runs steered the team out of trouble before Bangladesh hit back with two quick wickets. Taufeeq needlessly came out of his crease and was well caught by a diving Javed at point. Left-arm spinner Mohammad Rafique dealt a cruel blow by removing Inzamam-ul-Haq for a five-ball duck.

Inzamam, playing international cricket for the first time in five months, after the World Cup in South Africa, spent a shaky five minutes at the crease before his uppish drive was neatly held by Razin Saleh as Pakistan slipped to 103 for three.

That was the time when if Mashrafe or Rafique had a little support from the other average bowlers, Pakistan could have slumped. However, Youhana and Yasir had other ideas and cashed in on the bad deliveries with their 131-run stand.

Mahmud used seven bowlers, but overbowled himself in the process, which helped both the Pakistani batsmen to score freely. Yasir was especially harsh on the Bangladesh captain, who conceded well over four an over off his 15 overs. Yasir, who raised his 50 with nine fluent fours on either side of the wicket, brought up his century with a perfect sweep off Alok Kapali which was the batsman's 18th hit to the fence in three hours.

Bangladesh managed to remove both batsmen before close but not before Pakistan took a slender lead of 13 runs and finished the day at 301 for five. Youhana on 46 miscalculated his drive only to see part-time off-spinner Razin Saleh taking an easy catch off his own bowling and seven overs before stumps were drawn, Yasir played the only reckless stroke and Rafique had him caught on the second attempt. Only few hundred spectators were present at a 34,000 capacity stadium to witness some high class short selection of Yasir in six hours during which he hit 25 boundaries.

Rashid Latif fought a lone battle on the third morning to take Pakistan's lead beyond the 50-run mark as Bangladesh ran through the long Pakistan tail. None of the last four Pakistani batsmen could cross the double figures, and it was only due to Rashid's unbeaten 54 that Pakistan took a small lead. Mahmud at last got his second wicket in seven Test matches when he had Kaneria caught and bowled while Rafique and Mashrafe ended up with three wickets each.

It was Bashar's brilliant unbeaten 82 which gave a nightmare to Rashid as Bangladesh lost only three wickets in two sessions and made 163 runs. Bashar first put on 54 runs for the second wicket with Sarkar (30) and then found a reliable partner in Razin for a century partnership which negated all the bowling options of Rashid.

"It was the horrible night of my 12 years of international cricket," admitted Rashid. "I was worried about the match because they were 105 runs ahead and had they got one or two good sessions, it could have put our batsmen under a lot of pressure."

Bashar did not take long to complete his second Test century on the fourth morning when he guided Akhtar to third man for a single, but Razin took 49 balls to progress from 27 to 28. Bashar's century included 10 fours and came off 212 balls.

"I was disappointed by the manner in which I got out. I should have stayed there," said Bashar about his rash stroke off Kaneria which presented a dolly catch to Shabbir. Kapali failed to read Kaneria's googly as Bangladesh lost half the side for 195 runs — a lead of 137 runs.

Razin and Mashud put on 56 runs and Rashid had no other option but to take the second new ball in the 93rd over of the innings to restrict Bangladesh. Although Shoaib didn't get a wicket with the new ball, he kept the pressure on Bangladesh batsmen which helped Shabbir bowl a magical spell 3.1-0-7-4. Razin, who needed on-field treatment when Shoaib struck on his forearm, made 60 in five hours before Shabbir triggered the collapse. Razin edged to Rashid and Mahmud was lbw off the first delivery which put Shabbir on a hat-trick. Although Tapash Baisya averted the hat-trick, he fell to Latif-Shabbir combination. From 251 for five, Bangladesh was all out for 274 when Shabbir trapped last man Rafique leg before.

Yasir's unbeaten 68 off 99 balls ensured Pakistan's victory on the fourth day as they progressed to 112 for the loss of Taufeeq Umar's wicket. Bangladesh bowlers struggled on a flat track as Yasir continued to punish the loose deliveries with utmost timing on both sides of the wicket with 11 hits to the fence. In the closing overs of the day, Hafeez was let off the hook when Mashud dropped a catch off Mashrafe.

Hafeez made amends for his first innings failure with a 50 before Rafique had him bowled through the big gap between bat and pad. Yasir achieved his "greatest moment of life" when he raced between the wickets for two runs to complete his century with the help of 14 fours. However, when Pakistan was just 47 runs away from victory he dragged Rafique's delivery onto his stumps. The small crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Inzamam-ul-Haq got some batting practice before the second Test with an unbeaten 35 which featured three successive boundaries off spinner Sanwar Hossain.

"There were lots of positives from this Test match. Had we stayed at the wicket for a long time in the second innings, we could have given Pakistan some more fight," Mahmud said.