February 26, 2021

Vision Tamil

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Babar Azam, Shan Masood tons put Pakistan on top

4 min read

Stumps Bangladesh 233 (Mithun 63, Najmul 44, Afridi 4-53, Abbas 2-19) v Pakistan

There are two ways of looking at Bangladesh’s batting performance on the opening day of the Rawalpindi Test. That they lasted nearly an entire day here to make 233 against a competent pace battery – after just 71.4 overs over two innings in their previous Test in Kolkata – should count as an improvement. But that five of their batsmen got to or crossed 25, and just Mohammad Mithun crossed a half-century, puts their underwhelming show into perspective. This meant Pakistan, who elected to bowl after being influenced by the green-tinged surface that wasn’t half as menacing as it looked, took the honours after the first day of exchanges.

Left-arm seamer Shaheen Afridi fittingly led the team off the field after finishing with 4 for 53 after displaying good control, variety, pace and late movement in both directions. Bangladesh were seven down when the second new ball was taken, and Pakistan needed a little over two overs to clean up the tail. They should have come out to bat for a tricky half-hour period, but happily remained in the shed as the umpires called off play early because of bad light.

Afridi was superbly complemented by the metronomic Mohammad Abbas, who gave Azhar Ali control each time Bangladesh’s batsmen threatened to take the game away, while Naseem Shah provided more glimpses of his talent as a 16-year-old, bowling fast, beating the batsmen for pace, and even roughing up an accomplished batsman like Mominul Haque with the short ball.

With the quicks ruling the roost, Yasir Shah had an off day. He struggled for rhythm and consistency, conceding 83 in 22 wicketless overs, but Pakistan found an unlikely hero in Haris Sohail, the left-arm spinner, whose wicket of Liton Das at a crucial juncture opened the game up going into the final session.

Liton and Mohammad Mithun‘s brief flurry had become a minor irritant for Pakistan towards tea. The pair raised a quick fire half-century stand to leave Azhar searching for options, and Sohail delivered with Liton trapped lbw looking for an expansive sweep. Pakistan would have missed the wicket if not for Sohail’s insistence on a review, and replays suggested the ball had pitched in line and would have crashed into leg stump.

This broke a flourishing stand that left Bangladesh 164 for 6 at tea. After the break, they drove forward with Taijul Islam proving to be an able ally to Mithun. Taijul showed patience and excellent application to blunt the spinners, playing late and committing himself fully forward and back. Mithun, meanwhile, showed why there could be more to him than just the odd cameo, focusing on playing authentic strokes like the crunching on-the-up cover drive off Naseem late in the day soon after raising his second Test half-century. Or even the lofted hit over mid-off for six off Yasir, a clean strike with the spin.

Yet, such brilliance for Bangladesh came in spurts and in between there were plenty of brain fades, like from Najmul Hossain Shanto in the first over after lunch. Having shown the kind of footwork and Test-match temperament rarely seen from a rookie Bangladesh top-order batsman in recent times for a better part of two hours to make 44, he was out nicking while trying to flay an Abbas length delivery that moved a wee bit.

Mahmudullah came out looking edgy and gave the impression that he was looking to pick up runs while he could before a good ball got him. And he ended up nicking a wide ball to the slips, where Asad Shafiq threw himself to his right with both hands to pull off a stunner to give Afridi his third of the day. This should have galvanised Pakistan. Instead, they just took the foot off the pedal and briefly switched off.

Both Liton and Mithun got off the mark with thick inside edges that may have cannoned into the stumps another day, but once the early rustiness was out of the way, the pair seemed intent on crease occupation. Yasir came on to lend variety to the attack, but he lacked bite and was picked off easily square of the wicket on both sides. However, the good work of the seamers somewhat made up for his poor outing.

Bangladesh helped the home side along the way, losing wickets in clutches, like in the first session when the openers fell inside the first two overs. Debutant Saif Hassan was out nicking second ball to the slips when Afridi got one to angle away sharply. Then Tamim Iqbal, fresh off a record-breaking triple century last week, was out playing all around an Abbas delivery. He was given not out, but Pakistan reviewed and were proved right when replays confirmed the ball would have hit off stump.

Mominul struggled against short-ball barrage from Naseem and survived two lucky shaves when his technique of evading bouncers stood exposed. He then got going, and put together a half-century stand with Najmul, but flattered to deceive again as he duly fell into the trap, sucked into a drive and nicking behind to Mohammad Rizwan.

Slicing past the lower order hardly seemed a task for Pakistan as they nipped out the last three wickets with the second new ball. The dismissal of Abu Jayed, who carelessly wandered out of the crease, only to stop short by a direct hit at the striker’s end, summed up their day: one of being caught unawares, when the need was better application and match awareness.

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