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The Bulletin by Rabeed Imam
January 9, 2005
Zimbabwe 312 and 46 for 3 require 335 runs to beat Bangladesh 488 and 204 for 9 dec (Bashar 55, Chigumbura 5-54)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball commentary
By the close, Bangladesh were on the verge of their first Test victory having called all the shots on the fourth day against Zimbabwe. After setting a target of 381, their bowlers reduced Zimbabwe to 46 for 3, and they now need to take just seven wickets on the final day to make history.
Zimbabwe's star performer was Elton Chigumbura, who followed up his 71 on the third day with 5 for 54 in Bangladesh's second innings. Despite these heroics, Chigumbura seems destined to end on the losing side after a terrific burst with the new ball from Tapas Baisya - and a moment of madness by the Zimbabwe opener Stuart Matsikenyeri late on - put Bangladesh firmly in sight of victory. They were helped, too, by the batting of their captain Habibul Bashar, who posted his second fifty of the match.
In the morning, Bangladesh polished off the last two Zimbabwean wickets in quick time and then raced to 62 for 2 in 16 overs. Zimbabwe's ninth wicket pair had hung around for nearly half an hour, adding just four to their overnight total before Mashrafe Mortaza got rid of Hondo (312 for 9). In the next over, on the same score, Mohammad Rafique found some turn and Mluleki Nkala edged to Mashud. That gave Rafique a richly deserved five-for, his fifth in Test cricket.
The Bangladesh batsmen were in no mood to hang around as they set about mounting an unassailable lead which was spearheaded by Bashar, who played an array of shots as he strode to his second fifty, the fifth time he has completed two half-centuries in a Test. And their total could have been healthier, but the Zimbabweans picked up regular wickets to slow a run rate which has hovered above four an over for most of the second innings. Bashar eventually called the innings to a close, which was only their second declaration in Test history, after they declared against West Indies in May 2004.
Bangladesh came out to bat in a positive frame of mind and, despite losing Nafis Iqbal for 0, Rajin Saleh - promoted to opener owing to Omar's injury - and Bashar scored freely. Saleh picked up from where he had left off in the first innings, thumping a couple of cover drives for four. He had reached a fluent 26 before he mistimed an attempted drive straight over the bowler Hondo. The ball struck the bottom of his bat and travelled gently to Hondo who had to adjust himself to take the simple return catch (47 for 2).
Hondo had earlier gained the first breakthrough when Iqbal flashed at a wide ball, and Brendan Taylor at second slip caught a stunner one-handed (7 for 1). It was another memorable piece of fielding by the sprightly Zimbabweans.
For the second time in the match, Mohammad Ashraful missed out on a big score. Having looked in absolute ease for 22 (25 balls), Ashraful edged one from Chris Mpofu while trying to cut, and the Zimbabwean wicketkeeper Tatenda Taibu got down well to take a low catch to his right (83 for 3). A couple of balls earlier, Ashraful had a stroke of luck when his pull was caught by Douglas Hondo at deep fine leg but the momentum had taken Hondo over the boundary rope.
Aftab Ahmed started with a beautiful cover-driven four but, on 11, a mistimed attempt to clear mid-on found the diving Graeme Cremer for yet another good catch (114 for 4). Hondo sent back Khaled Mashud just before tea via a leading edge to the third-man fielder - but by this stage Bangladesh were firmly in charge.
Bashar was given a reprieve by Chigumbura on 53, when the bowler could not latch on to a return catch in his follow-through. But, in Chigumbura's next over, the ball stopped on Bashar (55) as he tried to play through the on-side, Masakadza took a simple catch - and promptly broke into a typical African celebration dance.
After pushing their lead to 335 by tea, Bangladesh accelerated in the final session. They lost three wickets along the way - all to Chigumbura who scooped his first Test five-for - but this didn't trouble them.
Chigumbura caught Javed Omar napping with a short ball - the batsman taking his eyes off the ball while pulling - and then he dismissed Mortaza after a rapid 19 in 15 balls. Chigumbura then forced Baisya to play straight to the short mid-wicket fielder as he completed a personally memorable - if ultimately fruitless - two days.
Any thoughts Zimbabwe might have been harbouring about chasing 381 were banished as they made a disastrous start to their second innings, after Bashar had declared on 219 for 9, leaving them a tricky one-and-a-half hours to negotiate before the close.
Baisya was on the button immediately, bowling fast and straight, with just a hint of inward and he struck two early blows to leave Zimbabwe reeling on 2 for 2. First he tempted Barney Rogers (0) to edge towards a crowded slip cordon where the substitute Manzarul Islam Rana held on. That was just the second over of the innings. In his next over, Baisya trapped Vusi Sibanda lbw - also for 0 and it was just reward for the bowler, who is all-too-often overshadowed by the more glamorous Mashrafe Mortaza and Mohammad Rafique.
Zimbabwe mounted some resistance as Matsikenyeri and Hamilton Masakadza held firm against fiery spells from Baisya and Mortaza. The batsmen's concentration was impressive, amid choruses of 'Ohh's and 'Aah's from the excited Bangladesh fielders who could sense something special coming their way. And it did.
With just one hour left in the day, Matsikenyeri - having put on a patient 40 with Masakadza - took a wild swipe at an Enamul Haque (Jr) delivery, only to hear the sound of the bails getting dislodged. It was an inexplicable attempt under the circumstances, and defeat now looms large for the visitors.
Rafique will be their biggest threat on a fifth day which promises absorbing cricket. Despite nursing a hamstring strain, Rafique managed to send down four overs in Zimbabwe's second innings, without trouble - for him, at least. Zimbabwe, meanwhile, are firmly in the mire. As for Bangladesh, the only trouble they may have is getting to sleep, ahead of a day in which they should make history.
Rabeed Imam is a sports writer for the Daily Star in Dhaka.
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