Plays of the day January 24, 2010

Bangladesh's Peter Pan

The boy who refuses to grow up
The Mohammad Ashraful soap opera continued with yet another typical episode today: A fleeting glimpse of something memorable before the inevitable brain freeze. No one else in world cricket today does that more consistently than him. He punched, flicked and even whipped a delivery from the off stump past a startled mid-on before he combusted against Pragyan Ojha with a needless charge. Ashraful, it seems, is a boy who refuses to grow up. He still is a crowd favourite, though. A young nation is entitled to its sporting biases.

Guess who's back?
It was here in Bangladesh that Ishant Sharma made his Test debut and was tonked by Ashraful. It's here now, though, that he has found some solace in troubled times. Both Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar have already pointed out that this experience will have tremendously improved his confidence. Today he again bowled well and was helped by the batsmen and even by the umpire. Billy Bowden upheld an appeal for a catch behind the wicket though it appeared that the ball touched Imrul Kayes' thigh pad. Ishant then straightened one to remove Raqibul Hasan and moved one in to trap Mushfiqur Rahim. He hasn't returned to his best yet, but it appears that he has spotted the path after threatening to get lost in the woods.

The gambit
Mahmudullah, who led another fine rearguard with the tail, did well to farm the strike but there was one moment of confusion. It was the third ball and No. 10 Shafiul Islam tapped an Ojha delivery past square leg. Harbhajan Singh, at backward square leg, just jogged, teasing Mahmudullah to take the second run which would bring Shafiul back on strike. Mahmudullah hesitated for quite a while before he decided to cross over for the second. The next ball Ojha struck Shafiul on the pad in front of the stumps and Harbhajan's tease could have almost worked but Bowden turned down the good shout.

O captain, my captain
It was short and wide and perhaps, that's why he went for it but he only could edge it behind. They would say that it wasn't a captain's shot but your heart went out for him. He has been Bangladesh's Daniel Vettori - he has to bat, he has to bowl, take catches and captain his side to greater things. The cross is perhaps too heavy for him to carry. In Tamim Iqbal, Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim, he has men who have started to rally around him and form the core of the side but he needs more support.

Almost out of jail but...
Mahmudullah was on 96 when he cut Ojha towards Sehwag at backward point and got into a yes-no situation with his partner Rubel Hossain. Both batsmen were nearly at Mahmudullah's end before Rubel retreated. Meanwhile, Sehwag's throw came in but Ojha back-pedalled too far back behind the stumps and then missed hitting them as well. Mahmudullah escaped, or so one thought. However, in the next over, Rubel kept out the first four deliveries but was cleaned up by an offbreak from Harbhajan Singh. M Vijay, who himself has come close but not experienced what it feels to score a Test ton, ran up to congratulate Mahmudullah before Harbhajan too joined in. It wouldn't have made up for the missed opportunity though, and Mahmudullah retreated ever so slowly back to the hut.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo