Bangladesh v Zimbabwe, 1st Test, Chittagong, Day 2 January 7, 2005

Rafique puts Bangladesh firmly in charge

Zimbabwe 84 for 4 trail Bangladesh 488 (Saleh 89, Rafique 69) by 404 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball commentary

Mohammad Rafique sweeps on his way to a rapid 69 © AFP

A good day for Bangladesh became even better towards the close as they tightened the noose around Zimbabwe by taking four wickets, to leave them struggling to save the follow-on. The key man today was Mohammad Rafique, who followed an aggressive 69 with two cheap wickets when Zimbabwe went in after tea.

It's an unprecedented situation for Bangladesh, who have not won any of their previous 34 Test matches. At Chittagong they are emphatically in charge, against an admittedly modest Zimbabwe side, after making their highest Test total of 488. Zimbabwe require another 205 just to make Bangladesh bat again, and that will be a daunting prospect if Rafique settles into the same groove with his left-arm spin that he found in the final session today.

He came on at first change after Mashrafe Mortaza had gone for a few runs, trying to blast out the batsmen with some short stuff. And Rafique needed just a couple of overs to weave his magic, when Vusi Sibanda made the fatal error of staying back to one that pitched in line, and was leg-before (48 for 2).

Rafique then removed the 18-year-old Graeme Cremer, who was rather unwisely sent in as nightwatchman as the shadows lengthened. The unfortunate Cremer had no clue about his third ball, which was a little fuller and trapped him in front for a debut duck (59 for 4).

Before that Tapash Baisya had made the first breakthrough. Stuart Matsikenyeri had made a pugnacious start, taking the attack to the new-ball bowlers despite being rattled on the helmet by a Mortaza bouncer. There were some feisty back-foot strokes, against Mortaza in particular, and then he square-cut Tapash for four to reach 28, from 29 deliveries. But the next ball drew Matsikenyeri forward, and the resultant edge flew low to first slip where Habibul Bashar held on to it in his fingertips (31 for 1).

The other opener, Barney Rogers, took 28 balls to get off the mark on his debut, but was then out in unfortunate circumstances. A powerful drive by Hamilton Masakadza ricocheted off Enamul Haque's hand onto the stumps at the non-striker's end with Rogers, who was backing up, short of his crease (59 for 3).

Masakadza, who was playing his first Test for three years, had reached a well-organised 28 not out by stumps, but it will be a case of pressure, pressure and more pressure on the third day as Bangladesh try to get closer to their dream of a Test victory.

Earlier it had been Rafique and Mortaza with the bat who had tamed the Zimbabwean bowlers. By tea, the Tigers had gone way past their previous highest Test total of 416, which they made against West Indies in St Lucia last year. More importantly, they had made their runs quickly in a session that produced 134 from 28 overs - the pre-lunch session had produced only 68. In that time Bangladesh lost Aftab Ahmed, without adding to his overnight score, and Rajin Saleh for 89 - he gave a return catch to Matsikenyeri after a stand of 58 with Mashud (341 for 6).

Rafique made his intentions clear in the first over after lunch, smashing a four off Elton Chigumbura, and then pulling the offspinner Matsikenyeri for a massive six over widish long-on. And then, amid a pulsating beat of drums from the crowd, Rafique dismissed Douglas Hondo for a straight six to bring up Bangladesh's 400. Rafique was now fully in his stride, but at the other end Khaled Mashud was finding it difficult to come to terms with the legspin of Cremer, who was not introduced until the 42nd over of the day. It was no great surprise that Cremer eventually claimed his first Test wicket when Mashud pushed at one, and was caught at slip one short of a deserved half-century (410 for 7). That ended a 69-run stand that had kept Bangladesh on top after the loss of Aftab Ahmed in the third over of the day.

But there was no respite for Zimbabwe as Mortaza joined Rafique, and scored a quickfire 48, from only 44 balls and containing eight fours and a six. Matsikenyeri and Cremer were treated with disdain. Rafique motored to his half-century with his fourth six, to post the fifty partnership for the eighth wicket from just 49 balls. But finally Rafique, who also hit six fours, edged the gangling Chris Mpofu through to Tatenda Taibu (472 for 8). Mortaza pulled and drove a flurry of boundaries before he was the last man out just short of a maiden Test fifty. He was helped along the way by dropped catches by Hondo and Sibanda.

The pitch hasn't changed dramatically in character, although there are some cracks opening up. With the spinners Rafique and Enamul exploiting the odd trick or two in the track, Zimbabwe will have their work cut out tomorrow.

Rabeed Imam is a sports writer for the Daily Star in Dhaka.