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Since Habibul Bashar's retirement, Bangladesh haven't had a regular at one-drop. Marshall's debut Test may not have been extraordinary, but there were indications that he has the mettle for Test cricket
October 19, 2013
Marshall Ayub's Test debut didn't get the level of attention as his entry into the squad for the New Zealand series. Mominul Haque and Sohag Gazi hogged all the live air and column spaces while the result of the Chittagong Test itself, only Bangladesh's second drawn Test against New Zealand, warranted more interest. Come Monday in Mirpur for the second Test, his crisp driving and sound technique will be under focus once again.
The home team is banking on their batsmen's good form and Marshall is one of them who has come in to the side with plenty of runs behind him. His last innings in a longer-version match before his Test debut was a 150-odd during a practice game which reportedly impressed the Test captain Mushfiqur Rahim, who was keeping wicket behind Marshall throughout the knock.
But even a long run of good form from early 2012 wasn't convincing enough for the selectors. They questioned whether he would be able to withstand the initial pressure of batting in a Test match. The climb from Bangladesh's domestic structure into international cricket is a steep one, and the trepidation was similar in his case too.
According to sources, Mahmudullah, currently out of favour in Test cricket, was asked whether he would take over the No.3 role. He wasn't too keen, it was learned. There were also thoughts of promoting Mominul or sticking in Jahurul Islam, as Anamul Haque would be opening the innings with Tamim Iqbal.
It was Marshall's innings in Khulna, few weeks before the Chittagong Test, which convinced the selectors to keep their focus on him, despite the fact that he isn't even a regular No.3. Since Habibul Bashar's retirement, Bangladesh haven't had a regular at that position and there's no clarity on who they're looking for. This, despite Bashar being in the current selection committee.
There was no debut Test fairytale for Marshall, but it was still a pleasant experience for the 24-year old. Until he was caught behind off a very wide delivery from fellow debutant Corey Anderson, he was involved in a third-wicket stand of 126 dominated by Mominul. In the second innings, he was more comfortable as he drove the spinners with ease.
"I am enjoying the batting position," Marshall said. "I should be ready to play anywhere, and I have played at No.3 a few times. I scored a 150-odd recently at three, so I have belief that I can do well here. The only thing that is different at three is playing the new ball. You have to do that more regularly.
"I tried to bat [in the Test match] like I do in domestic cricket. I have faced such situations there too, so the pressure at that particular point seemed similar. I tried to play normally, but I didn't score much. I was having some trouble early in the morning. The bowlers are usually fresh, they were bowling well. I played a bad shot, chased a ball that was some way outside the off stump."
His record in Mirpur wouldn't excite him but he has a century here in the Bangladesh Cricket League back last December. He followed it up with three low scores, but he looked in good form nevertheless.
He should also avoid looking at the eastern galleries where he was, just under four years ago, hammered for six sixes in an over by Naeem Islam in a Dhaka Premier League match.
His sense of humour got him through that terrible spell of bowling in 2009, and get over a career-threatening knee injury a few months later. His sustained batting form in domestic cricket has got him to Test cricket, so it would be wise to look past his record in Mirpur and the lingering doubts over his mettle. A good showing in the second Test can put all of that to rest.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Mohammad Isam
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