Shahadat and Siddique help hosts seize momentum
Shahadat Hossain and Junaid Siddique were the heroes as Bangladesh had the better of the second day of the opening Test in Mirpur. Having established a 22-run first-innings lead, they were then indebted to Siddique for a stodgy unbeaten 64 that stretched it to 147 by stumps. Dale Steyn produced another superb new-ball spell as Bangladesh slumped to 29 for 3 before tea, but a 56-run partnership between Siddique and Mohammad Ashraful thwarted South Africa for a fair while in the final session.
Shahadat, who bowled at a lively pace and with tremendous control for career-best figures of 6 for 27, may have been the main man but the talking point of the day was provided by Ashraful. By the time he brought himself on shortly before lunch, the momentum had swung towards South Africa, with AB de Villiers riding his luck to 46 and Johan Botha offering stout resistance.
But it all changed in the space of one ball. And what a ball it was. Ashraful is no Shane Warne, and after the ball left his fingers, it bounced twice before reaching de Villiers. He chose to play it from the crease, but could only top-edge it back to the bowler. Cue massive celebrations from Bangladesh and no movement from de Villiers, who was convinced that it was a dead ball. Steve Bucknor finally sent him on his way though, much to the dismay of the South African dressing room.
Botha's 91-ball vigil ended soon after, trapped lbw by Shahadat, and when Mornè Morkel followed on the stroke of lunch, Bangladesh were poised to take a slender lead. They did too, with Shahadat trapping Mark Boucher in front and then bowling Makhaya Ntini to complete an impressive spell.
Bangladesh weren't in the ascendancy when de Villiers was going strong. Coming to the crease after a shambolic mix-up sent Ashwell Prince on his way in the second over of the day, he quickly signalled his intent with drives, cuts and powerful pulls through midwicket. There was an element of good fortune too, with Ashraful, running back from mid-off, dropping a catch off Mohammad Rafique when de Villiers was on 30.
On a pitch where the odd ball stayed exceptionally low, concentration was crucial, and Botha played his part in a partnership that got South Africa back into the contest. He let de Villiers do the bulk of the scoring, but there was also a lovely on-drive off Rafique and an impudent reverse-sweep off Shakib Al Hasan in his innings of 25.
There was a phase in the session where the South Africans were becalmed for more than five overs, but once de Villiers smacked Shakib for a big six over midwicket and then took him for two fours in an over, the tide appeared to be turning. A bizarre dismissal though put paid to that.
South Africa needed breakthroughs quickly and Steyn provided them. Tamim Iqbal was cleaned up by a quick one, and after Shahriar Nafees had played a couple of lovely strokes square of the wicket, Steyn got one to shape back and catch him in front. Habibul Bashar, whose career is in free fall, followed soon after in similar fashion and Bangladesh were once again in danger of squandering a promising position, as they had in Multan against Pakistan in 2003 and later in 2006, against Australia in Fatullah.
But Ashraful and Siddique eschewed flamboyance for the most part to put on some crucial runs. Ashraful, who was in one-day mode in the first innings, was remarkably controlled, showing his big-hitting prowess only with a huge six over midwicket off a listless Botha.
Ntini finally picked up his first wicket of the match, getting Ashraful to edge one behind, but Aftab Ahmed and Siddique saw it through to stumps with a few dollops of luck. Edges fell short of slip and flashy drives evaded fielders as Graeme Smith was reduced to trying out even Neil McKenzie's innocuous medium pace. It wasn't South Africa's day and unless they improve dramatically on Sunday, the cream of the Bangladeshi crop may just reprise their Under-19 team's heroics in Malaysia.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo