Bangladesh v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Mirpur, 3rd day May 8, 2015

Pakistan take control, and then drop into a shell

They may still very likely win the Test, but by not enforcing the follow-on, missed a great opportunity to make a massive statement of intent

Mushtaq Ahmed - "We had planned to bowl them out within the first hour or so to bowl again, but they lingered on a bit forcing our main bowler to bowl a longer spell" © AFP

'Ifs' and 'buts' almost always follow Pakistan and Test declarations. On Friday, they opted against enforcing the follow-on despite having a lead of 354 runs. Even last year, against Australia in Abu Dhabi, Pakistan preferred batting again even though they held a healthy lead of 309.

Pakistan may not lose this Test from here, but they have arguably blown a great chance to shake off their 25-day winless streak against Bangladesh in the most emphatic fashion and regain some honour. But as they often do, Pakistan chose a more conservative route and stretched the contest.

Even Shakib Al Hasan was surprised after the game.

"If we count the number of days, it is a slight advantage for us. I didn't expect them to bat again," he said. "I don't know why they did that. I thought they were in a flow and had the best time to attack us. But hopefully it will be in our favor. I am sure they will think about their decision if we have a big partnership tomorrow. It would, even for a short time, give them some tension."

But according to Pakistan's spin-bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed, the visitors were merely sticking to a simple plan.

"The idea was to bowl them out within a certain time, and then to bowl again, but they lingered (longer than expected) and forced us to change our plan," Mushtaq said. It was Shakib himself who resisted hard for his 89 off 91 balls and disrupted Pakistan's plan.

Pakistan's bowlers actually started the day afresh and took just 90 minutes to wrap up Bangladesh's innings for 203 in the first session. Pakistan didn't use Junaid Khan and Imran Khan at all, and Wahab Riaz only bowled seven overs spreading into two spells. Yasir Shah bowled 9.3 straight overs, while Mohamamd Hafeez chipped in a quick four-over spell.

On Thursday, the PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan took a swipe at his own team's fitness levels. But according to Mushtaq, the fact that his one key bowler, Wahab, bowled a longer spell than expected was why they did not insert Bangladesh again.

"This is Test cricket; you don't have to finish the game in three days," Mushtaq said. "You have got to be professional and see the limitations of the team and the bowlers as well. You still have plenty of the time left in the test and also you have to respect the game. It was a team decision and we have to stick with the decision.

"We have still two days left and plenty of time, though we had planned to bowl them out within the first hour or so to bowl again but they lingered on a bit forcing our main bowler to bowl a longer spell. Also, the pitch may behave differently on days four and five, so all these elements played a role for not to enforce the follow-on. We respect the opponent and Bangladesh is a good team so we had to have enough runs on board to bowl them out again."

Pakistan now have six sessions and nearly 180 overs to effectively take eight wickets and win the Test. A target in excess of 500 has never been chased down in the history of Test cricket, but Bangladesh have been busy breaking records over the past three weeks, and nothing is quite beyond the realms of possibility yet.

Pakistan last enforced a follow-on back in May 2002 at the Gaddafi Stadium, against New Zealand, a match which Pakistan eventually won by 324 runs. In the decade since, Pakistan never got into that kind of position again till the Abu Dhabi game against Australia last year.

There is the possibility of rain washing out at least one or more sessions in coming days, though it is very unlikely to change the final outcome of the contest.

"We have been tracking the weather report, which has been deceiving so you cant control the weather and whatever isn't in your control you don't have to worry about it," Mushtaq said. "But you can't tinker on an unpredictable aspect because we were expecting rain on day two but it didn't happen so you have to go with the flow sometime.

"Cricket is a funny old game, you got to focus on what you can do well. I can't say that we are at the best position but apparently we are at top but still we have to bowl well, we have to catch well, we have to field well and have to play very smart cricket and we have to be professional. The whole point is that things can happen and a lot of records get broken, but we are on top of the cricket and have big chance to win this from here."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson

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