Khaled Mashud defies the Windies
Bangladesh 416 and 271 for 9 dec (Mashud 103*) drew with West Indies 352 (Gayle 141, Mushfiqur 4-65) and 113 for 0 (Gayle 66*)
Bangladesh have taken the most significant step yet in their coming-of-age as a Test nation, as the West Indian bowlers were first beaten back and then brushed aside on the final day in St Lucia. Their hero was Khaled Mashud - also known as Pilot - who steered Bangladesh to safety and beyond with his maiden Test century.
Mashud's efforts secured a lead of 336, which enabled Habibul Bashar, Bangladesh's captain, to declare for the first time in his country's history. As the West Indians wandered off the field like zombies, Mashud was cheered from the pitch by his team-mates, and slapped on the back by well-wishers. With 29 overs remaining, they were never going to force the victory that the country so craves, but they did everything that could possibly have been asked of them. It was a victory in all but name.
In any ordinary circumstances, the finale of this match would have been pretty dull, regardless of Chris Gayle and Devon Smith's piquant response, in which they clubbed 113 unbeaten runs as the match drifted to its conclusion. But the context alone ensured that could not be the case.
Bangladesh had previously avoided defeat in just two of their 28 matches, and both of those owed everything to the weather. But here, in the Caribbean of all places, they not only defied all precedents, but mocked them as well. At one point in the overs leading up to tea, Habibul made as if to declare, but was dragged back into his seat by his team-mates, who were happy just to drink in the moment and wait for Mashud to reach his hundred.
Mashud and the Bangladeshi tail batted with such consummate ease in the afternoon session that it was difficult to recall quite how perilous their position had been at the start of play. For the record, they had resumed on 94 for 6, with a fragile lead of 158, and had been four quick wickets away from conceding the advantage in a match that had they had dominated since the second day. But Rajin Saleh produced a fighting 51, before Mashud and Mohammad Rafique carried the team to lunch with an unbeaten 52-run stand for the eighth wicket.
Eighty-one runs were added in that first session, and it was a measure of the spirit in the Bangladeshi camp that West Indies did not bowl especially badly. Tino Best, who had prompted last night's collapse, resumed first thing and immediately found his range in a hostile spell, but was repeatedly beaten back by Saleh and Mashud, who both needed treatment after being rapped on the gloves and forearms in a bruising passage of play.
At the other end, Pedro Collins kept the score in check with an immaculate line and gently outswinging length, and Bangladesh needed a considerable amount of luck to keep him at bay. Saleh edged him through gully for four and was then dropped next ball by Chris Gayle to move sheepishly to his half-century, and Mashud later fished a brace of fours through the cordon as well.
West Indies made a solitary breakthrough, courtesy of the drinks break, as Fidel Edwards trapped Saleh lbw with his third delivery after the resumption. At 122 for 7, with more than 90 overs left to be bowled, West Indies were back in the hunt, but Mashud and Rafique carried the lead beyond 200 with a resolute partnership, and by lunch, Brian Lara had turned to his part-time spinners, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Gayle, in a vain pursuit of a breakthrough.
That marked the end of the West Indian resistance. They were a broken team in the second session, as Lara persisted with the spinners, quite probably in a pointed gesture to the selectors who sent him into the game with four seamers on a featherbed of a track. Not that Rafique and Mashud minded - Mashud in particular had been uncomfortable against the short ball after Best's barrage, but he gritted his teeth and battled his way to his century.
Rafique was eventually caught behind off Sarwan for an invaluable 29, whereupon Tapash Baisya took up the mantle, only to fall on the stroke of tea. But, for the second time in his debut Test, Tareq Aziz rose above his No. 11 status to help out his team-mate. In the first innings he had seen Rafique to his century, this time Mashud was the beneficiary of his watchful approach.
At the start of play, Bangladesh's primary aim had been to keep West Indies in the field until lunch at the very least, thereby insuring against defeat. Now, however, they had earned themselves 29 overs to inflict some psychological scars ahead of the second Test. However, West Indies avoided humiliation, with Gayle in full flow as he flogged the ball to all parts. It was, however, a very hollow and all-too-late riposte.
All of this was achieved without the presence of Bangladesh's inspirational coach, Dav Whatmore. He flew home to attend the funeral of his brother-in-law, and is unlikely to return for the second Test. West Indies might have thought that would be a factor in their favour. They won't be so sure now.