Bangaldesh v India, 1st Test Chittagong, 5th day

Pitch battles, and the Ash Effect

Sriram Veera in Chittagong

January 21, 2010

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Virender Sehwag is delighted after taking a catch from Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh v India, 1st Test, Chittagong, 5th day, January 21, 2010
Virender Sehwag is delighted after catching Shakib Al Hasan © Associated Press
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The Ash Effect
Mohammad Ashraful lives between a scream of joy and a sigh of anguish. A fluent square drive got the crowd roaring in delight before an edge that dropped short of slips punctured the elation. It wasn't long before he fell, edging the ball into waiting hands. No one was surprised when it happened. But the crowd's disappointment didn't surprise either. For many, Ashraful, despite a paltry Test average, still holds an unexplainable special place in the heart. The youngest Test centurion evokes the paternal feeling in his fans.

Pitch Battle I - Zaheer v Mahmudullah
It was a stirring duel - 21 deliveries, lots of bouncers, 19 runs, four fours and a wicket. It nearly resembled the contest between a brave Rajin Saleh and a hostile Shoaib Akhtar during a Test in Pakistan. But unlike Saleh, who took a few body blows that day, Mahmudullah launched a thrilling counterattack. The first boundary was unintentional - he was trying to get his bat out of the way when the ball caught the edge and flew over slips. The second one came via a square cut but the third was the best: The ball was a good short one from round the stumps, but Mahmudullah arched back, created room and played a deft upper cut over backward point. It seemed to get Zaheer all worked up. The next ball was another lifter, Mahmudullah met it with a feisty hook, and Zaheer had words to say after hurling down more bouncers. Mahmudullah then missed an upper cut, fended one awkwardly to the on side and left a couple alone. Very soon, he cut one really hard but Sehwag couldn't hold on to the scorcher at gully. But Mahmudullah fell next ball, edging a short and wide one to the keeper.

The shoe lace
Batsmen usually ask opposition fielders to tie their shoe laces. Not Tamim Iqbal. He went down on his knees, removed his gloves and gave his laces a good old tug. Gautam Gambhir, one of his favourite Indian batsmen and someone Tamim has been meaning to have a chat with during this series about his batting, was the closest Indian at short leg. Perhaps that was the reason.

Pitch Battle II - Sehwag v Shakib
Sehwag started the battle with his infamous press conference. Shakib chose to remain silent then and reserved his reaction for on the field. He was the bowler who removed Sehwag in both innings and let out a special scream of joy on both occasions. Sehwag too got his opportunities for revenge; he took the catches to remove Shakib in both innings. In the first, he was at gully and didn't react too much. Today, he was at silly-point, and pumped his fist as he stared at Shakib.

Sreesanth
He won't have fond memories of this Test. In the first innings, he struggled for rhythm initially, and constantly overstepped. He came back later to pick up two wickets - Raqibul Hossain and Mahmudullah - but slipped again in the second innings. Ishant Sharma, the No. 3 seamer, bowled better than him and, when Sreesanth came back at the very end, Mushfiqur Rahim, in the middle of a crowd-rousing counterattack, hit him all around the park. The worst was yet to come though; Sreesanth pulled up with a thigh strain and limped off the field. It was that kind of a day.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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