Bangladesh face fight for survival
Light permitting, eight Bangladesh wickets were left with the imposing task of playing out a minimum of 90 overs to save the Chittagong Test, and only an outside chance of getting the 348 runs needed to win it. Having set Bangladesh an improbable target, thanks largely to Gautam Gambhir's fifth century in five consecutive Tests, India made important breakthroughs in the 18 overs they managed on the fourth evening.
On a pitch that had become easier to bat on in comparison to the first innings, Zaheer Khan created opportunities against the left-hand top order, but Tamim Iqbal looked more resolute than usual. The positive for India was that the amount of play lost to bad light had gradually decreased over the last two days: 84.4 overs were possible on the fourth day despite the two lost during the changeover.
Tamim showed remarkable restraint for a man reputed to be a dasher. He stayed away from adventurous shots away from his body, and twice followed verbals from Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma with sensible shots, and not quick ripostes. Imrul Kayes and Shahriar Nafees, though, couldn't find the same application. Kayes edged a ball from Zaheer that slightly held its line outside off. Nafees tried his best to get out to Zaheer, but VVS Laxman dropped him once at second slip, and the second edge fell just short of him. When Ishant squared Nafees up for the second time in the match, Virender Sehwag took a smart catch low to his right at gully.
The first two sessions and a bit of the third were an exercise in setting up the declaration. Bangladesh seemed resigned to having to save the Test as Gambhir accumulated - at a strike-rate of 90-plus - his way to his fifth second-innings century. Amit Mishra, the nightwatchman, had some fun too, scoring his first Test fifty.
Bangladesh hardly ever looked like striving for wickets in the first session. The sunniest day of the Test spelled gloom for the hosts; it meant we got 135 minutes of play before lunch, which went for 137 runs. Gambhir started the day by reaching at least fifty in 10th straight Tests, one short of the record held by Viv Richards. From coming to one within Richards' record to moving to one within Don Bradman's - six hundreds in six Tests, it was an inevitable stroll for Gambhir. Bangladesh gave him one-day fields, and he milked ones and twos as if in the middle overs of a 50-over match.
Mishra, on the other hand, gave up his cavalier approach from the previous evening, and started to play like a proper batsman. It helped that he could afford to stay in the crease and keep working the ball, because the spinners didn't look to draw him forward.
From 46 to 95, Gambhir hit just four boundaries, but kept finding gaps in the spread-out field. Both Gambhir and Mishra were dropped once each on the way to their milestones, Gambhir on 55 by Kayes, and Mishra on 41 by Nafees.
In typical fashion, as with his last four tons, Gambhir brought up the century by stepping out and hitting over the infield. He had for company the holder of the Indian record for most centuries in consecutive Tests, Rahul Dravid. Slightly uncharacteristically, Dravid afforded himself a big laugh and high-fived Gambhir on the achievement. Gambhir's wicket was followed by Dravid running himself out, plonking his bat as opposed to sliding it into the crease.
Post lunch, an aggressive Rubel Hossain turned up. He got reverse-swing going, bowled at around 140kmph, and mixed in a fair number of bouncers. He was rewarded with Sachin Tendulkar's wicket and uncomfortable moments for Yuvraj Singh. With both of them falling, VVS Laxman's class almost batted Bangladesh out.
After Yuvraj's wicket, with the lead at 314 and a lot of time left in the Test, Laxman had to be more circumspect. He played some elegant wristy shots, though, and maintained a strike-rate of close to 70. He even slog-swept twice, top-edging safely once, and connecting the other one properly.
Dinesh Karthik and Zaheer took more risks at the other end, and six overs post tea, India declared with Bangladesh needing two runs more than they have ever managed in the fourth innings. They have scored 200 or more in the fourth innings of a Test only three times. Their 217 for 6 got them a famous win in West Indies, and the 413 against Sri Lanka featured a heart-breaking collapse from 403 for 6, in a chase of 521 in Mirpur.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo