Trouble at the top for Bangladesh's bowlers
In Mirpur, Kraigg Brathwaite and Kieran Powell joined a long list of wet-behind-the-ears openers who have taken advantage of an old Bangladesh problem. They put on a century opening stand, the 20th time Bangladesh have allowed a such a partnership to develop.
The extreme vigilance of the young pair was the only eye-catching feature on a day when Bangladesh's late fight back spiced up some conventional Test cricket. West Indies went to lunch on 88 for no loss on a track that offered no movement or turn. Both openers had maiden Test half-centuries to their credit when the 18-year-old Brathwaite knocked the ball into the covers to bring up his personal landmark, as well as the team's 100.
Brathwaite and Powell had played only three Tests between them coming into this match, but looked comfortable facing an attack that had one of the best spinners in contemporary cricket - Shakib Al Hasan - as well as a pair of fast bowlers - Shahadat Hossain and Rubel Hossain - who aren't pedestrian. This recurring problem for Bangladesh could be traced back to years of no specific preparation against particular opposition batsmen or bowlers. They usually explain the same by saying they're focusing on themselves, and that is not too far from the truth.
Graeme Smith and Neil McKenzie managed a record 415-run stand in Chittagong in February 2008, but more worrying for Bangladesh is that several of the hundred partnerships were between openers who were either debutants or played very few Tests. Taufeeq Umar, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Kabir, Dion Ebrahim, Trevor Gripper, Tino Mawoyo, Vusi Sibanda, Upul Tharanga and Michael Vandort were all part of 100-plus opening partnerships against Bangladesh early in their Test careers, while Taufeeq, Jacques Rudolph and Yasir Hameed made debut hundreds against them.
Earlier this year, in Zimbabwe's return to Test cricket, the Mawoyo-Sibanda stand came after Shakib decided to bowl; Rubel and Shafiul Islam bowled poorly and the fielders' shoulders drooped before the first hour had ended. Today, with Bangladesh supposedly bringing in momentum from the previous Test, they would not have wanted to concede an early advantage.
Shahriar Nafees, however, played down West Indies' solid beginning. "I believe there was definite hype about this game after the way we played in Chittagong. When the opponent makes such a good start, it might seem a little frustrating but this is a fresh game," he said. "They [West Indies] have definitely chalked out their plans, but this is the interesting part of Test cricket. We can regroup after every two hours and we did pick up five wickets in the last two sessions."
Bangladesh would have gladly taken the big opening stand in exchange for the cheap dismissal of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and since they got what they wished for late in the day, the start wouldn't be a cause for a headache. However, it's an aspect of the match that will not be missed by their perceptive coach Stuart Law.
During the Harare Test in August, Robiul Islam's resolute 12-over spell to begin the second day was a source of inspiration after a disappointing first day for Bangladesh. They will want a similar show of substance from their bowlers on the second day.
Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka