India in Bangladesh, 2007 May 22, 2007

Bad cricket, best forgotten

India's intent was undermined by an inability to force the issue, Bangladesh showed they hadn't played Test cricket for 13 months

When Javed Omar and Habibul Bashar were hitting a few boundaries, chasing 250 from 43 overs after a sporting declaration from India, only the crowd got excited © AFP

When 15 hours and 8 minutes of play (more than two and a half days) is lost in a Test match played on a slow, flat track, only innings forfeitures or substandard cricket can take the game as close to a result as it went at the Chittagong Divisional Stadium. And the two captains in question here are no Nasser Hussain or Hansie Cronje.

It was just as well, then, that the two teams chose to call the game off with 16 overs to go. Because neither showed during the match that they were capable of winning, nor should either have come close. When Javed Omar and Habibul Bashar were hitting a few boundaries, chasing 250 from 43 overs after a sporting declaration from India, only the crowd got excited. The batsmen themselves didn't, otherwise sending in Rajin Saleh ahead of Mohammad Ashraful, or not having promoted Mashrafe Mortaza, wouldn't have made sense.

India showed the right intent today [although one can't be sure they would have risked such a declaration with any other Test team] and stayed ahead of the eight-ball during the earlier parts of the Test but did not make enough of the gifts offered by the Bangladeshi batsmen in the first innings. When they looked to push for declarations in both the innings, their batsmen just could not score quickly enough. Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly fell in quick succession when they were in a position to take charge of the game and put on board a total that could give them enough runs and time to make sure they batted only once. And when they had Bangladesh eight wickets down and still quite a way from the follow-on target, they let things slip with the ball.

Even on the fifth day, they failed to back up intent with deed, losing wickets instead of getting quick runs. With Anil Kumble not around, it was too much to ask of this bowling attack to bowl a team out in 43 overs.

Bangladesh will do well to not get carried away by the events late on the fourth day and remind themselves that they made a match out of this Test by throwing their wickets away in the first innings. The way Mashrafe Mortaza and Shahadat Hossain batted and saved the follow-on offered a lesson to the other batsmen in the side. Their bowlers did a decent job in the second innings but it should not be forgotten that they were bowling to batsmen whose minds were preoccupied with thoughts of declaration.

Two world-class sides would have played out a dull, boring runathon in similar playing conditions and with similar time in hand, punctuated by some inspirational moments from the bowlers and fielders. Here, both the teams contrived to bring the game to a point where 250 runs were required off the last 43 overs. A more experienced side would have gone for this target; then again, a more experienced side would not have been set this target.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer with Cricinfo Magazine