Bangladesh frustrate England to set up intriguing final day
Job well done: Mushfiqur Rahman and Khaled Mahmud at the end of play
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If England hoped that Bangladesh's determined performance yesterday was a one-off, then the fourth day emphatically proved otherwise. Led by Hannan Sarkar, Bangladesh took all the honours with a display of dogged and determined batting as they closed on 245 for 6 and frustrated the attack, who were below-par right from the start. England now face an uncomfortable final day tomorrow and will have a battle on their hands to avoid becoming the first side to lose a Test match against the Bangladeshis.
They took their time, but firstly Sarkar and Habibul Bashar, and then Mushfiqur Rahman accumulated valuable runs and refused to let the bowlers assert any sort of domination. Matthew Hoggard and Stephen Harmison slogged it out with scant reward, but the spinners, and in particular Ashley Giles, were largely ineffective. As England's mediocrity wore on, it was hard to see which side was supposedly the worst in the world.
The tone of the day was set from the off as Sarkar and Bashar wiped off England's first-innings lead with increasing ease against bowling which was at best ordinary and then became positively ragged. At first the batsmen were content to push ones and twos, eschewing the flamboyant shot in favour of the nudge and run approach, but as the morning progressed they gradually emerged from their shells.
Only the dismissal of Bashar with the last ball of the morning temporarily spared Michael Vaughan's blushes. Bashar's wicket, juggled and caught at the second attempt by Marcus Trescothick at first slip off Gareth Batty for an excellent 58, was an absolute godsend for England after their fruitless start.
Matthew Hoggard celebrates the fortunate wicket of Javed Omar
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As Bangladesh crept forward, wickets were at a premium, and Alok Kapali gave England a much needed boost shortly after lunch when he tried an ambitious pull shot off Harmison. The ball flew high in the air and Mark Butcher safely pouched it at square leg (140 for 3). England breathed easier, but Sarkar was still at the other end causing them problems. He brought up his fifth Test fifty with a handsome cover-drive off Batty, and continued to frustrate the bowlers with his patient style.
However, Hoggard replaced Harmison and picked up the big one of Sarkar with the second ball of his spell. Playing away from his body to a good-length ball outside off, Sarkar steered it straight to Trescothick at first slip (148 for 4). Bangladesh had lost three wickets for 28 runs, and England were starting to get a spring back in their step.
But that didn't last long. Rahman and Khaled Mashud then dropped anchor with a stodgy 28-run stand, eventually broken by Giles, who belatedly took his first wicket of the match. He was overdue a good spell and was rewarded for a more attacking line with the wicket of Mashud. Lunging forward, Mashud got an inside edge onto his pad, and Nasser Hussain flung himself forward to take a superb catch diving low to his left (176 for 5).
But again, just as England sensed they were slowly starting to get back on top, their progress was held up by more resolute resistance. Giles slipped back a gear and Rahman, along with Javed Omar, continued to scrap it out, adding 43 valuable runs between them and bringing up the 100 lead at the same time.
Omar took his chances against the new ball, swinging the bat to good effect and increasing the lead as well his handy partnership with Rahman. But Omar's fighting innings came to an unlucky end when Asoka de Silva gave him lbw to a slower ball from Hoggard. The ball would have hit middle, but Omar got a clear inside edge onto his pad (219 for 6). England needed all the help they could get, but in the end even that wicket was small relief.
Rahman, who gutsed out an unbeaten 43 from 149 balls, took the lead passed 150 with a dazzling cover-drive off Harmison shortly before the close, much to the delight of an enthusiastically noisy crowd at the Bangabandhu Stadium. And even though it was the batsmen who accepted the bad light, it gave Vaughan and his not-so-merry men the chance to get off and regroup after a disappointing day and prepare for a testing one tomorrow.