Zimbabwe shelter under Mount Masakadza
When Hamilton Masakadza stood at the crease against the spinners, there were times when the wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim was completely eclipsed. Jubair Hossain could have stood there too and it would have still been impossible to spot the two Bangladesh players behind Masakadza's broad frame. He has that kind of physical presence in the middle. Watching him tap his bat on the crease can be daunting for a bowler because Masakadza seems like a giant rock. Immovable.
A large frame without lots of runs means little, though, and Masakadza's numbers in Test cricket are ordinary enough that you won't be surprised if teams do not make special plans to bowl at him. Bowl in the 'right areas', as they say, and wait for the batsman to make a mistake. Masakadza probably falls into that category, as do most Zimbabwe players.
But ask any Zimbabwean the value of those 1528 runs and 28 Tests worth of experience, and they might say those figures are gold. Over the past decade, Zimbabwe have seen a once thriving cricket culture collapse due to reasons ranging from questionable administrative policies to talent drain. Masakadza is one of few who have stayed firm through the turmoil. A survivor. At the age of 31, he is also the team's veteran and their leading Test run-scorer, among the current crop.
Masakadza's fighting spirit has perhaps rubbed off on his team-mates because six innings into this series, one thing Zimbabwe have not done is give up. They have been obdurate, like they were against Pakistan last year, or against Australia a couple of months ago. Playing with limited ability, Zimbabwe have done their best to stay in line and not be extravagant. Their bowlers restricted the damage in Khulna by limiting Bangladesh to 433 and on the third day their batsmen, led by Masakadza, put up a fight.
In the lead-up to the second Test, while Zimbabwe were trying novel methods to simulate spinning conditions, Masakadza had said he was not yet ready to give up on the preparation he had made ahead of the series. Those methods probably included playing spin late and with soft hands, pushing in the 'v' as much as possible, using power while driving only when the ball was a half-volley or a long-hop, conserving energy through the day by walking easy singles and using a reverse-sweep to reach 150. Maybe the last one was not part of the original plan, but he religiously stuck to everything else.
Masakadza was lucky on the third morning. He was dropped twice in consecutive overs but that twitchy-ness only made him more bloody-minded. He would defend a ball against the seamers, walk slowly towards square leg, trudge back, and then plant himself on the crease. At the non-striker's end, he was not light-footed like the young batsmen of this age, up on their marks before a shot is hit. He would stand calmly till a run was there to be taken. Calmly he passed his milestones, collecting his first Test century outside Zimbabwe, not feeling the need to change his game.
It has only been three years since Zimbabwe's return to the Test fold and Masakadza has highlighted the role of the seniors in not only taking their games forward but also helping the new generation of cricketers adapt to international cricket. Unlike in Mirpur, Masakadza stuck around in Khulna, first with debutant Brian Chari during a 67-run stand, then with Regis Chakabva in an unbeaten partnership of 142.
"It's a wonderful innings and it is even more special to me to be [with] him, to be where he is now and me batting alongside him," Chakabva said after the day's play. "We were joking about it, how it has taken so much time to come but it was magnificent to see him play."
Masakadza defended the last over of the day and turned immediately to make his way towards the dressing room. After a few steps, he stopped and waited for Chakabva to join him. The younger partner embraced the senior for a job well done. Zimbabwe had scored 278 runs in the day and were just 102 behind the hosts. Chakabva is not as big as Masakadza either and would have felt relaxed beside those broad shoulders.
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo