Shakib helps stretch lead to 258
Shakib Al Hasan once again stepped up for his team, this time with the bat, as Bangladesh seized the advantage on the third day of the first Test against New Zealand in Chittagong. The day started with Shakib bagging the best innings haul by a Bangladesh bowler to restrict New Zealand to 171, before his first Test half-century helped his team to 184 for 8, a formidable lead of 258.
Overnight on 155 for 9, Daniel Vettori started with the intention to reduce the deficit, but Shakib bowled Iain O'Brien through his legs to hand his team a 74-run first-innings lead. Bangladesh then began their second innings far more positively than their first. They looked to score runs and kept their run-rate above three for most of the morning. It was in direct contrast to the first innings, where the run-rate hovered around one for 40-odd overs.
After the early loss of Junaid Siddique to Kyle Mills for 6, some excellent spin bowling by Daniel Vettori and Jeetan Patel choked the runs, which led to a spree of wickets before lunch. Patel had Rajin Saleh caught in front of his stumps by bringing the ball back from well outside the off stump. In the next over, Vettori claimed the prize scalp of Mohammad Ashraful, who got an outside edge to a ball he was trying to dispatch over mid-off and was brilliantly caught at point by Aaron Redmond.
The hosts were reduced to 48 for 4 when Patel took the wicket of first-innings hero Mehrab Hossain jnr just before lunch. After the fall of Tamim Iqbal - the only batsman to reach double figures among the top five - soon after the break, Shakib joined Mushfiqur Rahim at the crease with his team facing the prospect of being scuttled for an embarrassingly low total.
Just as Vettori had done the previous day, Shakib looked composed from the beginning. He hit the bad balls to the boundary and pushed for singles from the good deliveries. He put on a valuable 56 with Mushfiqur and 48 with Naeem Islam, two stands that could prove vital. He was finally caught by Ross Taylor in the slips off Vettori for a well-compiled 71. He hit 12 fours and faced 151 balls.
The hosts ended the day at 184 for 8, a lead of 258. Vettori finished with 4 for 39 and Patel 2 for 52. Before the day began, chasing between 250 and 300 might have seemed beyond the New Zealanders, but the pitch began to lose its venom as the day progressed. The ball stopped turning and didn't bounce as much as it did on the first few days. The cracks didn't open up in line with expectations, and the lack of turn and bounce was why Vettori used fast bowlers Jacob Oram, Kyle Mills and O'Brien in the final session of the day. However, the heat made it difficult for them to bowl long spells, with the temperature hovering around 37º C.
After the day's performance, Bangladesh look favourites for a second Test win, but with the pitch easing out, New Zealand would hope conditions stay the same for their fourth-innings chase.
Peter Burdon is a cricket writer based in New Zealand