Sudden Bangladesh collapse leaves India easy winners
Bangladesh's dramatic collapse on Monday was so sudden that it had a shattering effect not only on the cricket fans in the country but also on the genuine lover of the game. How can one analyse the performance of a team that holds its own till the morning of the fourth day and then goes down so abysmally that the match is lost tamely by the end of the same day? Long after the inaugural Test against India was lost at the Bangabandhu stadium by nine wickets, the home team was still trying to come to terms with the defeat. Perhaps this was the expected result on the eve of the game but not after Bangladesh had written a script which had them sharing the honour stakes even as play resumed this morning.
A keen duel for supremacy for the first innings was on the cards when India resumed at 366 for seven but thanks to Sunil Joshi and Ajit Agarkar and their eighth wicket partnership of 56 runs off 15.5 overs, India went ahead without losing a wicket. Joshi who had already taken five wickets in the Bangladesh first innings now inched towards his century which would have bracketed him along with Vinoo Mankad (at Lord's in 1952) and Polly Umrigar (at Port of Spain in 1962) as the only other Indian players to have notched up the rare double of a century and five wickets in an innings in a Test match. But the 31- year-old left handed all rounder from Karnataka was not destined to join the greats. For, on 92 he holed out to mid off. It was a sad end to a gallant innings. Joshi had come in at a crucial juncture on Sunday and along with Ganguly and Agarkar managed to give India a slender lead which proved of enormous psychological advantage in the ultimate analysis. Joshi batted four hours, faced 180 balls and hit nine fours.
The tail did not offer much resistance and Agarkar was last out for a valuable 34 off 88 balls. He hit five fours. Agarkar's wicket gave Naimur Rahman his sixth scalp of the innings and India ended 29 runs in front on the first innings.
India were all out just before lunch and with five sessions left in the game, all kinds of scenarios were being discussed. Certainly there were so many possibilities but none could have bargained for what actually happened. A team that had batted so bravely for almost eleven hours and 153.3 overs to score 400 in the first innings caved in off just 46.3 overs and a little over 200 minutes the second time around for a meagre 91. It was inexplicable. There was nothing outstanding in the Indian bowling and the wicket, but for the inevitable wear and tear on a fourth day pitch, was still good to bat on. And yet the Bangladesh batsmen well and truly psyched themselves out. They were on the backfoot from the moment Shahriar Hossain ducked into a short ball from Srinath and got hit on the left shoulder. In pain, Shahriar retired to receive attention. Mehrab Hossain and Habibul Bashar painfully took the score to 32 in the 13th over when the former played a loose stroke outside the off stump at Zaheer Khan and was held low down by Murali Kartik at backward point.
After this, it was verily a procession. One by one the Bangladesh batsmen fell to injudicious shot selection. Except for Bashar who made 30 off 63 balls with four boundary hits and wicketkeeper Khaled Masud who scored an unbeaten 21 off 68 balls with one boundary, none of the other batsmen reached double digits. The lofty reputation the batsmen earned by their gallant display in the first innings was lost by their shoddy showing in the second and in the end the cynics, who doubted Bangladesh's lasting qualities, proved to be right. Making the most of this pathetic showing were Srinath, Agarkar and Joshi. The 31-year-old Indian spearhead who was unimpressive in the first innings would have regained his confidence by taking three for 19 but, truth be told, these were flattering figures. But then no less flattering were the figures of Joshi (3 for 27) and Agarkar (2 for 16). The batsmen just had no clue in tackling the short deliveries, which Srinath and Agarkar peppered them with.
India were now left to get only 63 runs for victory and about the only interest left was the margin of the win and when that would come about. Sadagopan Ramesh was bowled by Hasibul Hoosein, essaying an extravagant shot but SS Das (22) and Rahul Dravid (41) steered India to victory with a day to spare. Dravid, the more aggressive of the two, hit five fours and a six while Das had three fours. Incidentally, Das also took five catches in the match. India had to get the runs from 15 overs if they wanted to finish the match by the evening and they accomplished this off the last ball of the 15th over. With the light murky, the floodlights were turned on midway through the Indian innings under the playing conditions. It was probably the first time that India were playing a Test under floodlights. It was also a first for Ganguly - a victory in his first Test as captain. He joined the ranks of Polly Umrigar, Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and Sachin Tendulkar as the only other Indian captains to have achieved this feat. The Indian team also presented Anshuman Gaekwad with the perfect parting gift with the Test match being the last assignment for the coach during his short, second tenure. Not unexpectedly, Joshi was declared man of the match.