Mushfiqur's consecutive declarations a landmark
The headlines from Chittagong are likely to be dominated by the performance of the debutant Elias Sunny, whose seven wickets, including a five-for, added drama to a match doomed by rain. Equally significant, though, was another landmark: Mushfiqur Rahim's declarations in consecutive innings, on the fourth and fifth days, the second of which threw the match tantalisingly open.
Fact is, declaring isn't something that comes naturally to Bangladesh captains - they are a breed more used to looking towards the opposition dressing-room for the signal, which perhaps can excuse the timing of both declarations in the match. What made Mushfiqur's decisions all the more notable was that this was his first Test as captain - and he became only the fourth captain to declare twice on debut, after Waqar Younis, Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook..
Declarations against Bangladesh have occurred a staggering 38 times in the 70 Test matches they have played so far. On only two of those 38 occasions have Bangladesh found a favourable result, a draw, but even those were due to inclement weather. Mushfiqur has been out in the field on 12 such instances, first as a 16-year-old at Lord's and on the last occasion in Harare, where Brendan Taylor's century forced Bangladesh out of the one-off Test match in August. Only two previous Bangladesh captains, Habibul Bashar (2004 and 2005) and Mohammad Ashraful (2008), have had the luxury of declaring an innings, though in the latter's case it was due to the game being affected by rain rather than any solidity from the team.
Bangladesh's 350-9 in the first innings of the Chittagong Test was deemed enough for a bowling attack that included two debutants and a man who was returning to international cricket after more than a year. Sunny was well supported by Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur's trump card, while Rubel Hossain and Shahadat Hossain provided a degree of discipline from the other end. West Indies went on to improve their overnight score (144-5) by a hundred runs, before Shakib wrapped up the tail with three wickets in the span of 14 balls. Bangladesh's opening pair, Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes, though, struggled on the sluggish pitch, which lost the crust of its topsoil after just three days of use. With the track being difficult, only Shahriar Nafees managed a half-century. With two and a half hours left to play, and Bangladesh ahead by 225, Mushfiqur declared a second time.
The lack of experience in such circumstances aside, Mushfiqur had to weigh his bowling options before being bold. On Monday, the last 45 minutes of the Bangladesh innings seemed needless, as Naeem Islam and Shahadat Hossain meandered along quietly after Nasir Hossain was dismissed. The second innings too was, at 42 overs, a bit too lengthy as none of the batsmen hit their stride on a track that had begun to turn more with every delivery. It prompted talk of negativity, but the lead was only 225 runs and it isn't every day that they get to set up a fourth innings chase.
Only a Bangladesh captain - Khaled Mashud and Khaled Mahmud spring to mind - can understand how elusive a declaration could be. Mashud and Mahmud led before Bashar and their stints were regarded as the dark days of Bangladesh cricket, inundated with huge innings defeats, three-day losses and an overdependence on Mohammad Rafique.
Mushfiqur was right in pointing out that West Indies will be under more pressure in Dhaka to win the series than his team. Now, without dwelling too much on the achievements from the rain-curtailed Chittagong Test, Mushfiqur must plan for the next Test and five more days of consistency from his bowlers and batsmen.
Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka