Zimbabwe v Bangladesh, 1st Test, Harare February 19, 2004

Rafique holds the key for Bangladesh

After a truncated opening day, the match is very much in the balance

Mohammad Rafique: flight, accuracy and turn
© Getty Images

After a truncated opening day, the match is very much in the balance. Zimbabwe might consider themselves better placed, in view of their batting depth and the perceived weakness of the Bangladeshi batting, but those are imponderables. The honours of the day, such as they were, were tilted slightly in favour of Bangladesh.

Robin Brown, the groundsman, and a first-class opening batsman in the 80s, said he did not believe his pitch would crumble unduly over five days, despite the cracks. He also said he expected there to be both bounce and carry for the bowlers. Presumably some of the Zimbabwe batsmen failed to ask him for an opinion.

Stuart Carlisle, who was in good form from the start with some handsome cuts and drives, and Dion Ebrahim, very cautious at first as is natural for one whose place in the team is in serious doubt after a season of indifferent form, both should have gone on to the major innings that Zimbabwe needed. Until Baishya took a sharp low return catch from Carlisle, the only way the two looked likely to be parted was in their running between wickets, which resembled the Keystone Cops on occasions.

Carlisle's dismissal was the turning point of the day, as Bangladesh, who had been unable to exert any real pressure earlier, now came back into the match. The key figure was Mohammad Rafique, the experienced left-arm spinner, who tied up the City end of the ground with his flight, accuracy and some turn on the first day - and he was also commendably quick to get through his overs.

The seamers, meanwhile, provided no real threat on a pitch that gave them little seam movement, although Monjurul Islam swung the ball early on. The key figure will be Rafique, who alone was able to put sustained pressure on the batsmen. With Zimbabwe's strength in their allrounders, he and his partners will need to prevent them from getting away on the crucial second day.