Bangladesh v West Indies, 1st Test, Mirpur, 4th day November 16, 2012

Massive test awaits Bangladesh

In the past, Bangladesh have competed for parts of Test matches before folding. Can they avoid a familiar story on Saturday?

The fifth day's play of the Dhaka Test will be Bangladesh's second "final" of the year, but the cricket to be played on the final day against West Indies will have little resemblance to the other final held in March. In the last four days, the batsmen got them the first-innings lead and a late burst of wickets from the spinners on the fourth evening means Bangladesh still have a say in the proceedings. Such a position is not rare but they have often squandered it. To handle it properly, the Bangladesh team has to harness their talent with an attitude that combines pragmatism and creativity.

The most crucial phase will be when Bangladesh chase. Having posted their highest-ever score and crossed the 500-mark for the first time, the threat of free-fall is looming. The batting line-up has normally had calamitous second innings' after crossing the 400-mark in the past. The team's inaugural Test is a prime example while the same happened against Australia in Fatullah, against England in Dhaka and against New Zealand in Hamilton.

Also, out of the 13 times they have batted in the fourth innings of a Test, Bangladesh have been bowled out ten times. The batting worries multiply given the gap between Bangladesh's last Test and the current one, but they can take inspiration from the two times they fought to a draw by batting well on the final day and, of course, the three wins in their Test history.

The recent confidence is going to come from Tamim Iqbal's form and Naeem Islam's new-found doggedness, along with the batting that goes on till No. 8. But pessimistic Bangladesh fans would suggest that those who scored 62, 72, 89, 96 and 108 have already completed their quota of runs for the match, if not the series.

If Bangladesh acknowledge their trend of making few after plenty, they will apply a bit of pragmatism to their approach, especially if they have to bat out time to save the game. If however the chase is on, the batsmen must show maturity in adapting. They haven't done this in the past, so they have to be creative about chasing, and not just go after the bowling.

But before they go out to bat, the bowlers have to mop up the West Indies tail which is likely to include the ill Shivnarine Chanderpaul. The condition of the wicket would be crucial but it is unlikely to vary too much even though a few deliveries did burst through late on the fourth afternoon.

The old ball is expected to turn a lot, and that is where Mushfiqur Rahim has to take charge. Shakib Al Hasan and Sohag Gazi have bowled well in tandem so far, and the captain should press on with the spin duo in an all-out attempt to break the overnight partnership. But if he wants to settle for a draw, he will have to take the lead in ensuring the Bangladesh second innings starts as late in the day as possible (and then brace for criticism).

There are lessons too from that narrow defeat to Pakistan in the Asia Cup. Tamim had scored 60 but wasn't determined enough to turn it into a big score while there was agonisingly slow batting from Nazimuddin and Nasir Hossain. There was an assumption that when Tamim or Shakib Al Hasan are blazing away, the rest can sit back. It won't be the case on the fifth day when all eight frontline batsmen have to contribute to save or win against West Indies.

The selection panel has announced an unchanged side for the second Test in Khulna, but it shouldn't be the only encouragement for Junaid Siddique and Shahriar Nafees, or for Shahadat Hossain and Rubel Hossain. It is missing the percentages that often hamper Bangladesh's chances of winning, something they can't afford on Saturday.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Bangladesh

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