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The Report by Abhishek Purohit
December 17, 2011
Bangladesh 234 for 5 (Shakib 108*, Nafees 97, Cheema 3-52) v Pakistan
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Shakib Al Hasan and Shahriar Nafees showed that it was possible for Bangladesh batsmen to play shots without throwing their wickets away, with the country's first century partnership in Tests since June 2010. The duo batted for almost two sessions to rescue Bangladesh from what had looked set to be yet another low total, after Aizaz Cheema had reduced them to 43 for 4 in helpful morning conditions.
At no stage in their partnership were Shakib and Nafees subdued, and without doing anything reckless, put on 180 at more than three-and-a-half runs an over. Though the Mirpur track eased out completely after seaming around in the first session, Bangladesh had caved in for 135 on a flat Chittagong surface a week ago. With their Test status being called into question by some, they had everything to prove. Shakib and Nafees showed that there was more to Bangladesh cricket than a large and fanatical fan following.
Fog and dew had delayed the start by 75 minutes but also encouraged Misbah-ul-Haq to ask the under-pressure Bangladesh batsmen to face his fast bowlers - although Pakistan went in with only two of them as against Bangladesh's three. Cheema's morning spell read 8-2-18-3 but Shakib ensured he was kept out of the attack for most of the second session, hitting him for three fours in four deliveries soon after lunch.
Shakib's aggression forced Misbah to turn to his spinners but there was not much help for them from a pitch that had now revealed itself to be a typical flat first-day subcontinent pitch. Shakib continued to play positively against Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman, working them on the leg side, and driving and punching through extra cover. A back-foot punch off Ajmal brought up his 50 and he stepped out next ball to caress a flighted delivery to the extra-cover boundary to bring up the century partnership - Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes were involved in the previous one in Manchester, against England in June 2010.
Nafees had earlier showed his team-mates the way to play the fast bowlers on a surface that was aiding seam in the morning. Wary of edging angled deliveries to the four slips, Nafees aimed to play straight as much as he could. Though that meant letting go of a few scoring opportunities, he went hard when he was given width and pulled with panache. Nafees hammered Umar Gul's first delivery of his second spell through extra cover to reach his third 50 after his return to the Test side in August.
Going against the propensity of Bangladesh batsmen to implode after reaching half-centuries, both batsmen continued in the same vein after getting to their landmarks. With the light fading in the Dhaka winter, Shakib cut Gul for two boundaries in an over to move to 99 and brought the appreciative crowd to its feet with a characteristic chop through point to reach his second Test hundred. Nafees clattered Ajmal through extra cover to move to 97 but Gul sent down an accurate bouncer in his next over to have him gloving it to the wicketkeeper. By then, though, Bangladesh had restored their pride, and Pakistan had looked clueless for the first time in three weeks on this tour.
Things had looked almost predictably bleak for Bangladesh in the morning after Cheema, especially, and Gul were relentless in exposing the hosts' frailties. Getting sharp seam movement, Cheema had Nazimuddin padding up in his first over, though everyone except umpire Shavir Tarapore thought that the bounce would have taken the ball over the stumps.
Gul did not get the kind of movement off the pitch that Cheema managed, and in the absence of swing, he had to rely on his accuracy and the element of surprise. After Tamim Iqbal had tentatively survived against several pitched-up deliveries, Gul dug in the bouncer in his fourth over. Tamim did what Tamim does, and the top-edged hook was taken safely by Cheema at fine leg.
With Bangladesh bringing in a fast bowler at the expense of Mohammad Ashraful, Mahmudullah was given a promotion in the batting order to No. 4. It didn't work, as Cheema rattled Mahmudullah's stumps first ball with one that nipped in between bat and pad.
Nasir Hossain, who had batted as low as No. 8 in the first innings in Chittagong, was sent in at 21 for 3. He looked thoroughly uncomfortable initially, stabbing and getting beaten as the ball jagged around. Another prod at an away-going Cheema delivery produced the edge and ended in the gloves of Adnan Akmal to make it 43 for 4. Another Test involving Bangladesh could have been decided by the first innings, but for Nafees and Shakib.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Abhishek Purohit
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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