Bangladesh v New Zealand, 1st Test, Chittagong, 1st day October 9, 2013

Five-bowler strategy a positive sign for Bangladesh

Playing five bowlers paid off for Bangladesh late on the first day in Chittagong, and it's a combination is likely to work better for them in Test cricket

Bangladesh's decision to field five bowlers is one that the team management should be encouraged to take more often. This Test was the second occasion when they tried out such a combination in the past four years, and they were rewarded instantly.

Shakib Al Hasan and Abdur Razzak got the late wickets of centurion Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum to leave New Zealand on 280 for 5. The day mostly belonged to the visitors but, with the extra bowler, Mushfiqur dared to take the second new ball as soon as it was available. He wasn't intending to use both pacers at the time, but the harder, newer ball was always going to give the two left-arm spinners more bounce and a little more bite off the pitch.

The addition of Razzak was necessary. Effectively, he replaced Ziaur Rahman in the line-up, but the inclusion of Razzak actually kept Mahmudullah - who has been played as a specialist batsman in Tests recently - out. Mahmudullah's sudden lull in form - 34 runs in his last six Test innings - played against him. He insists that form isn't an issue as he has scored some runs in the Dhaka Premier League, but it is time for Mahmudullah to look for a different role.

As a specialist batsman, he has been employed at No. 8 for ten Tests out of the 17 he has played so far, between 2009 and the first Test against Zimbabwe last May. He has scored 591 runs at this position, including a century and four fifties, averaging 42.21 with a strike-rate of 60.80. The numbers seem fine but it is extremely rare for a team to play a specialist batsman that low down the order. In fact, none of the 29 players who have scored more runs than Mahmudullah there are specialist batsmen. Their stronger suit is bowling or wicketkeeping.

It was always a defensive move, but previous selectors have described it as a necessary move to insulate against top-order collapses. But what it has done in the past is offer too much comfort to the batsmen above Mahmudullah, resulting in him having to clean up the mess with the tail.

Instead, Razzak's presence in the attack means that Shakib can bowl freely and be used sparingly by Mushfiqur. This was probably the first time in the last five years that Shakib wasn't bowling when Bangladesh had spinners attacking from both ends. Sohag Gazi too could be used properly, despite bowling a long first spell.

Bangladesh played four and a half bowlers in their last Test also, which resulted in a 143-run win over Zimbabwe. Ziaur Rahman, who made his debut in that game batting at No. 8 and was asked to bowl his medium-pace, took four wickets in the second innings. Some called it a lucky move because Ziaur's bowling had lost its bite several years ago after a knee injury, but one extra bowler capable of even holding up an end matters for Bangladesh.

With only the four bowlers at his disposal, Mushfiqur often delays making attacking moves. The spinners are usually tired, trying to do both, maintain the run-rate and pick up wickets. The seamers are not fresh, as they have to toil with the old ball from one end. Shakib has had to plug away for 35-40 overs a day, often the only attacking and defensive option.

Moreover, Mushfiqur has to consider the fickle nature of his batting line-up when handling his bowlers. There have been times when the bowlers didn't have the time to have a considerable amount of rest before they had to bowl a second time in the game.

The result of this Test match or the ones that follow should not push the management into thinking that a batsman at No. 8 is necessary. It doesn't add strength to the line-up, it offers unwanted comfort. The Bangladesh top order is aggressive, so those batsmen being made to take on a bit of extra responsibility wouldn't hurt. A second innings chase or a final-day save could be one of those days when the No. 8 would be missed but the onus would fully be on the top seven, enough batsmen for any side.

Most importantly, it is not just runs that would win them a Test match. Five bowlers would give them more opportunities to take the 20 wickets that would actually get them closest to a Test win.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here

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