Bashar and Omar make Pakistan struggle
Close Bangladesh 240 for 2 (Bashar 97, Omar 96*)
Javed Omar: on brink of maiden Test century
Bangladesh gave further evidence of their new-found maturity at Test level with a fine batting display on the opening day of the second Test against Pakistan at Peshawar. Once again, Habibul Bashar led the way with a magnificent innings, which ended three short of a second consecutive hundred. With Javed Omar - who batted all day and 286 balls for his 96 - obdurate in defence, and showing the adhesive qualities of a limpet, Pakistan's bowlers were made to toil in oppressive conditions. At the close, Bangladesh had advanced to 240 for 2, with Omar and Mohammad Ashraful having forged another useful alliance.
The day belonged to Bashar and Omar, who added a record 167 for the second wicket before Bashar was trapped in front by one from Shabbir Ahmed. It was a close call - the ball was angling down middle and leg - but Russell Tiffin lifted the finger after giving it some thought (180 for 2). In their former guise, that might have been the excuse for Bangladesh to go to pieces, but Omar and Ashraful ensured that nothing of the sort happened with some assured batting. Ashraful, who was dropped for the opening Test after some indifferent performances in Australia, was in the mood to impress and he did so with some sweetly struck drives on either side of the wicket.
In stifling conditions that forced more than one Pakistani to go off the field, Bashar and Omar combined caution with some superb strokes to ram home the advantage established in the opening session. Pakistan's bowling, on a featherbed of a pitch, was distinctly pedestrian, with the notable exception of Umar Gul who strove manfully in appalling heat. Danish Kaneria, so often Bangladesh's nemesis in the past, persisted in bowling frequent full-tosses, and the batsmen duly took him to the cleaners.
As for Shoaib Akhtar, self-declared destroyer, he must have been wishing he was back in the cool climes of Chester-le-Street, playing for Durham. He tried everything ... yorkers, bouncers, snarls, but had no joy against two batsmen who were absolutely resolute in defence. His final over of the afternoon, a seven-minute exercise in frustration, ended with him going off with a suspected hip injury. When he came back after tea, he bowled at considerably less than full throttle, before going off again.
Shoaib Malik, who had bowled a tidy spell of offspin earlier, also suffered, going off with cramps late in the session. By then, Bangladesh were in complete control. Omar was occasionally troubled by deliveries that angled into his pads, but he played a couple of delicate late cuts off the slow bowlers. On the one occasion that he got it wrong, the edge evaded the somnolent Taufeeq Umar at first slip.
Bashar, who likes to have a go, was restrained in the extreme, though he played some gorgeous shots through the off side when the bowlers erred in line or length. It was a great toss for Khaled Mahmud to win, and his batsman made sure that it didn't go waste.
It was a sobering day for Pakistan, after Gul had given them the perfect start by enticing a thin outside-edge from Hannan Sarkar (13 for 1). Rashid Latif and his boys whooped that up, but the smiles were quickly replaced by grimaces of pain as Bashar and Omar took charge. Up in the pavilion, Bangladesh's coach Dav Whatmore watched intently, smile carefully concealed under walrus moustache.