Gazi's batting vindicates shift in policy
With his maiden Test century, Sohag Gazi has reiterated his value as a batsman. If he can continue making such contributions in future, Bangladesh can finally relinquish their preferred policy - one they have stuck to for 17 Tests since 2009 - of using a specialist batsman at No 8.
It is the second Test in a row when Bangladesh have chosen not to play a batsman at No 8, a position traditionally meant for bowling allrounders and wicketkeepers. The change was effective in the previous Test in Zimbabwe, but at home, the assurance of that extra batsman is still felt within the dressing-room. It takes time to get used to a subtle change in mentality but Gazi's unbeaten 101 should be a step forward.
Gazi's performance also brings into focus the importance of having handy tail-enders. Bangladesh's batting coach Corey Richards has said that there is ample opportunity for bowlers like Gazi to work on their batting.
"It really isn't too difficult for bowlers to practice their batting at any stage of the year particularly in our structure," Richards said. "We encourage the bowlers to spend time in the nets. I am always available to help as is Shane [Jurgensen] or it could be as simple as pairing up with a "buddy" for practice.
"As we saw today and in the New Zealand innings, lower-order players who can bat can completely change the course of a game. It is crucial that they practice as often as possible."
The belief of Gazi the batsman grew as he moved past the half-century mark after starting the day on 28, although, he did appear nervous in the nineties when he tried to slog four times.
"Sometimes it [the slog] comes naturally," Gazi said. "I was trying my best to stay calm for as long as possible in that situation. Throughout the innings, I tried to bat like I would in the National Cricket League [the first-class competition]. I would like to continue like this."
Richards too was impressed with the innings, particularly because of the potential deficit that Bangladesh had to avoid. The home side were 89 runs behind New Zealand's 469 at the start of the fourth day, but the 105-run ninth-wicket stand gave Bangladesh a 32-run lead.
They have never taken a lead batting second against New Zealand, so it was as much about mental edge as about runs. "It was an extremely good innings," Richards said. "To score the runs under pressure and be involved in an important partnership with Robiul really turned the game around for us. We could have been 70 runs behind New Zealand, so to have a 32-run lead was a fantastic effort."
In a career of only seven Tests, Gazi has already done things to get people who work with him excited. He was Bangladesh's leading wicket-taker in Test cricket last season with 26 wickets and he has been useful in close finishes with his batting. But the Test century, in the opening Test of the 2013-14 home season, would help raise his confidence as a batsman.
Off late however, his bowling has been off-colour despite taking 10 wickets at an average of 17.50 in six Dhaka Premier League matches. The five wickets he took at 70.00 in Bangladesh A's tour of England in August was the cause for real concern. Also, he was among six cricketers whose fitness levels were not up to the mark before they left for the UK.
Richards has said that he must work hard on all aspects of his game to have longevity to his international career. "Sohag Gazi has all the attributes to be a fabulous long-term international cricketer for Bangladesh, provided that he continues to stay focused and work hard on all aspects of his cricket.
"As he showed today, he can turn the course of a game with his batting, and he is obviously capable of doing the same with the ball." Richards said. "I'm sure that he will get an enormous amount of confidence from today. I hope that this is the start of him showing what a talented allrounder he is for Bangladesh."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here