January 16, 2002

Saqlain, Kaneria bamboozle Bangladesh

Bangladesh looked like continuing their discouraging streak of failures since their inception into Test cricket in the second Test against Pakistan at the MA Aziz Stadium in Chittagong. The hosts found themselves blown away for 148 just before the tea break and, by stumps, Pakistan had steadily advanced to 99 for just the loss opener Shadab Kabir.

Off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq, who bowled little and unsuccessfully in the first Test at Dhaka, was the chief architect of the Bangladeshi collapse, luring five Bangladeshi batsmen to their doom and conceding only 35 runs in the process. At the other end, continuing his strategy of torment against Bangladesh, was Danish Kaneria, who claimed 4-62.

Bangladesh were most comfortable in the day only between Khaled Masud winning the toss and the openers taking strike against Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar. First strike on a flat, dry batting surface that promised to aid spin later in the match was an advantage that Bangladesh badly needed. It was also an advantage that was to be squandered.

Javed Belim, the right-handed opener playing in place of Mohammad Ashraful, opened with an injured Al-Sahariar. The pair added 21 runs for the first wicket before Waqar induced a nick from Al-Sahariar and sent him back for 13, caught behind by Rashid Latif.

Mehrab Hossain and Belim then proceeded to give their supporters a rare moment of cheer. Batting patiently and steadily, they saw off the opening pace salvo and then looked comfortable when spin was introduced into the attack. Just before lunch, however, Belim, then on 17, misread the bounce from a Saqlain delivery, offering a catch to silly point Shadab Kabir.

One of Bangladesh's more dependable bats disappointed on the day. Habibul Bashar's dismissal mirrored Belim's, with Shadab Kabir taking yet another catch at silly point off the bowling of Saqlain. Their best batsman gone for just 2, the remaining members of the batting line-up crumbled in the face of fine spin bowling from Saqlain and Kaneria.

Aminul Islam and skipper Khaled Masud did offer some resistance further down the order, adding 27 runs for the seventh wicket. Aminul ground out 27 runs, while Masud top-scored in the innings with 28.

Pakistan skipper Waqar Younis was in particularly attacking vein on the day, setting suffocating close-in fields to entice the batsmen into playing big shots. The plan worked brilliantly, with almost all the batsmen fell into that very trap. The home side's innings lasted only 56.4 overs.

Mohammad Sharif brought slight cheer with his early success, removing Shadab Kabir caught behind in the sixth over. Shadab appeared suspect outside the off-stump from the very start, prodding at deliveries that were meant to be left alone. His mode of dismissal, thus, came as little surprise.

That was to be Bangladesh's last success of the day. Younis Khan and Taufeeq Umar consolidated their side's position to run up 99 runs by the close of the play. Both were unbeaten on 47, taking eight boundaries each off a Bangladeshi attack that appeared unlikely to set things up for a series-squaring win by bowling Pakistan out twice.