Bangladesh totter after taking 106-run first innings lead
Close Bangladesh 281 and 77 for 4 (Saleh 29*, Mahmud 2*) lead Pakistan 175 (Hameed 39, Younis 34; Rafique 5-36, Mahmud 4-37) by 183 runs
Khaled Mahmud: for once, leading from the front
Dav Whatmore's blood pressure must be shooting through the roof. Bangladesh's ability to do well enough to scare the living daylights out of Pakistan, only to throw it all away, would frustrate the most patient of men. After bowling Pakistan out for a mere 175 and taking a crucial 106-run first innings lead, the Bangladesh top order collapsed spectacularly, slipping to 41 for 4 before ending the day on 77 for 4. The lead now stands at 183, with three full days to play.
Pakistan, somewhat unsurprisingly, gave off their best when their backs were to the wall. Fired up and steaming in, Umar Gul and Shabbir Ahmed blasted out the heart of the Bangladesh batting. Hannan Sarkar edged Gul to Rashid Latif, behind the stumps, with just four on the board and five runs later the same combination got rid of Habibul Bashar (9 for 2).
Shabbir then swooped in, plucking the wickets of Mohammad Ashraful (3) and Javed Omar (16), leaving Bangladesh in disarray at 41 for 4. Several more chances were created in the dying minutes of the day, but Alok Kapali (17 retired hurt) and Rajin Saleh (29 not out) weathered the storm, taking Bangladesh through almost to the close of play. A rush of blood, with just eight balls left in the day, saw Kapali cop a sickening blow when he hooked and missed a Shabbir bouncer. The ball slipped through the grill of the helmet, hitting Kapali square in the face close to the right eye. Bleeding, woozy, but not out, Kapali walked off the field.
The day began badly for Bangladesh, when they lost their last four wickets for a mere 33 runs. Still, 281 seemed a decent score on a pitch that had a bit in it for the bowlers. Shabbir Ahmed was the aggressor, capturing three quick wickets bowling full and straight.
The Bangladesh bowlers took note of Shabbir's success, fashioning a fine performance themselves. The left-arm spin of Rafique (5 for 36) proved to be a perfect foil for Mahmud's (4 for 37) medium pace. Mahmud, a reluctant hero at the best of times, led from the front, interrogating the batsmen with a controlled spell of bowling in the corridor outside the off stump.
Salman Butt (12) was the first to go, chasing a wide one. Mohammad Hafeez, who has shown so much promise, perished soon after, trapped in front of the stumps (36 for 2).
All eyes were on Inzamam-ul-Haq, who got his innings off to a brisk start with two boundaries. Out of form and looking for a big knock, Inzamam (10) then drove hard at Mahmud, spooning an easy catch to Hannan Sarkar in the slips. At 51 for 3, Pakistan were shaken.
Mahmud kept the pressure up, alternating with Tapash Baisya and Rafique at the other end. Yasir Hameed (39) and Younis Khan (34) then put their heads down and built the one significant partnership of the innings. They added 71 for the fourth wicket, but just when things were getting tough for Bangladesh, Mahmud broke through. Flicking at a ball sliding well down the leg side, Younis Khan feathered the ball to the wicketkeeper (121 for 4).
The fall of Younis brought Farhan Adil to the wicket. More importantly, it seemed to trigger a rush of blood from Hameed, who jumped down the track to Rafique to be bowled by an arm ball (135 for 5). From there on, Rafique got right on top of the batting, kept the pressure up and cleaned up the tail.
On a dramatic day when as many 18 wickets fell, Bangladesh will feel they should have made a better fist of it. Saleh, at the wicket with Mahmud when stumps were drawn, has shown the spirit needed to keep the bowlers at bay. If his team-mates can take a leaf out of his book, it might end up as a cracker of a game.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Wisden CricInfo in India.