November 10, 2000

A satisfying first day of Test cricket for Bangladesh

In the years to come, Bangladesh will have fond memories of their first day in Test cricket. At the Bangabandhu stadium on Friday, they exceeded the wildest dreams of their cricket fans by scoring 239 for six wickets off 90 overs on the opening day of their inaugural Test against India.

None credited the Bangladesh batsmen with the one paramount quality needed in Test cricket - staying power. Patience, dedication and determination is what Test batsmanship is all about. But brought up largely on one-day cricket and having a woeful record in the few first class matches they have played over the last three years, few would have expected Bangladesh to bat out 90 overs when they won the toss and elected to bat. But not only have they lasted the full first day, they also threaten to bat for a considerable period on the second and run up the second best total by a team playing their first innings in Test cricket.

Full marks to the Bangladesh batsmen, notably Habibul Bashar and former captain Aminul Islam. True, they had an ally in the pitch which was a sleeping beauty. But then they were up against vastly superior and much more experienced opposition. Moreover playing the first innings in a Test match can be an unnerving experience as previous teams, with the exception of Zimbabwe, have shown. But proving the pundits wrong, the Bangladesh batsmen proved their staying power in no uncertain terms and whatever happens now, one thing is sure. Bangladesh is not going to cave in meekly; they are prepared to fight.

No praise can be too high for Habibul Bashar and Aminul Islam. The 28-year-old Bashar was a surprise exclusion from the original party of 14 and it was only personal intervention from the president of the Bangladesh Cricket Board Saber Chowdhury that saw him back in the squad. He justified his belated presence with an innings of quality. After becoming the first batsman to get a half century for Bangladesh in a Test, it seemed only a matter of time that he would improve upon this and go on to a hundred. But carried away by his impetuosity, he mistimed a pull off a short delivery from Zaheer Khan and the result was a dolly catch to Sourav Ganguly at mid on. But he had done enough during his innings of 71, compiled off 112 balls with the help of 10 fours, to show that discarding him initially was a big mistake.

Aminul Islam helped consolidate the gains that Bashar had won. He was the rock on which the Bangladesh innings was built, steady and dependable. By close, he had put together an innings of 70 which could not fail to win the admiration of those present. A judicious mixture of aggression and defiance saw to it that the Indian bowlers just could not dislodge him. The 32-year-old former captain did get bogged down at times but none could question the immense value of his knock. Overall, it was just the kind of blood infusion that the Bangladesh innings required. By stumps he had faced 213 balls and had hit eight fours. Going by the tenacity of purpose, it will be a surprise if he is dislodged early on Saturday.

There was a third batting hero too - the burly Akram Khan. Coming in at a vital time, when India seemed to have wrested the initiative, he effected a thrilling counter attack. His attacking methods caused much distress for the Indians. He slammed 35 off 65 balls and besides five fours, became the first Bangladesh batsman to hit a six in a Test. There were touches of one day cricket in his batsmanship and even Bashar played a few cross batted swipes. But overall, there was little doubt that the batting was more suited to Test match cricket.

Despite the fact that Bangladesh took the opening day's honours, the Indians could look back on a couple of gains. They did well in capping three players in Zaheer Khan, Saba Karim and SS Das. And as the day's proceedings underlined, they probably did well in deciding to go in for the option of the extra bowler. Zaheer had a satisfactory debut and showed the kind of fire that has marked his performances in the shorter version of the game. Sunil Joshi did well in spells but Javagal Srinath was a bit of a disappointment. The long lay off seems to have left the 31-year-old Indian spearhead a bit rusty at the edges but hopefully he will recover soon with a lot of cricket ahead. Saba Karim however did not have a very good first day in Test cricket and it can only be hoped that he gets better as the Test progresses.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the Test after a short festive programme, the highlight of which were the paratroopers who landed on the ground with flags of the ten Test playing nations. The first day of Test cricket was watched by a near capacity crowd.