Atypical discipline the need for Bangladesh
The scenario of final day survival by a restless batting line-up might make for compelling viewing for the neutral, but for followers of the Bangladesh cricket team, it will mean another night of anticipation followed by more unease on Wednesday morning.
Essentially, Bangladesh will have to defend seven wickets over an entire's day play. If they do, it would add much needed steel to this group of cricketers. In their very short history, Bangladesh have only once batted out the final day and it happened six years ago against Zimbabwe at the Bangabandhu National Stadium.
But even this feat of the past is a mere passing thought given the way they batted in the first innings. Every batsman barring Naeem Islam came out all guns blazing: when the second wicket fell, the run-rate was above 7 an over, it was almost 7.50 after the third and still hovering near the 7-mark when the fifth fell. Boundary-hitting is addictive but against Fidel Edwards and Kemar Roach, it becomes a facade to avoid pace and bounce. In the second innings, the opening salvo hardly changed.
After West Indies chose to insure themselves against losing the Test by batting until after lunch, the worry was just how many wickets Bangladesh would take into the final day. The small crowd at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium cheered lightly when Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes opened with a flurry of boundaries yet again. Imrul edged Fidel Edwards to the other Edwards, Kirk, at first slip and though the catch was referred to the third umpire, that kind of dismissal was not unexpected.
Cynics would suggest that Bangladesh were going for the 508-run target rather than bat out the 137 overs, but the truth is Bangladesh's batsmen struggle to bat for long periods. The ability to switch on and off, especially before and after breaks in play, to deal with distractions, has yet to be mastered by the home side.
The 164 runs scored they scored on the fourth day is insignificant given the bigger picture. What mattered most was that after Tamim and Mushfiqur, the likes of Naeem Islam, Nasir Hossain, and most importantly, Shakib Al Hasan are still to come.
Shakib, Mushfiqur and Tamim all average higher in the fourth innings than their overall record. Shakib averages 60.83, including two fifties (one of them a match-winning 96 against West Indies in 2009) and a hundred, while the captain, who calmly negotiated almost an hour on the fourth day, averages 56.42.
Tamim, unbeaten on 82, remains the key. He resisted several goodies outside off from the West Indies bowlers in the final hour and it would be significant if he can continue to do so. Shakib, whose last innings as Test captain ended with a wild slog when Bangladesh needed to save the game against Zimbabwe in August, will also have to remain steadfast.
While Ottis Gibson, the West Indies coach, said a Bangladesh victory is not out of the question, the reality is they will have to scrap to save the game. The plan will be to bat out one session at a time. To that, the players will have to show the kind of discipline they have yet to demonstrate they possess. The key moments will be the small breaks during the three sessions. That is when Bangladesh will be at their most vulnerable.
Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka