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Mohammad Isam in Galle
March 6, 2013
A gaping hole in the batting order stares at Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim, coach Shane Jurgensen and on-tour selector Habibul Bashar when they decide the final eleven of the first Test against Sri Lanka.
Of the four batting changes Bangladesh have to make - Shakib Al Hasan, Nazimuddin, Shahriar Nafees and Naeem Islam are all not in the squad - two places are still up for grabs two days ahead of the Galle Test.
Last month, Akram Khan had mentioned the possibility of "one debutant" in the Test series, and it was assumed to be Anamul, a 20-year-old opening batsman who has been impressive in Under-19 and first-class cricket in the last three seasons.
Anamul's inadequate footwork has been a cause of concern, even though he has scored plenty of limited-overs runs recently. What has also hurt his case is the failure in the three-dayer, the only first-class innings before the Tests, which means his debut in whites could be delayed.
Jahurul was Anamul's opening partner in the three-dayer and he looked more assured of the two. He played three Tests in 2010, after which this could be his first chance. Domestic runs for Rajshahi Division and lately for North Zone and Duronto Rajshahi have brought him back into contention. Jahurul's compact defense makes him the sort of batsman Tamim Iqbal has often missed at the other end, but the jury is still out on his place.
Jurgensen said he was impressed with what he saw of Jahurul on the third morning. "He looked good until he got a good ball," he said. "I think we still have some thinking to do before we make the selection."
Among the four who have to be replaced, Shakib is the biggest loss while those who take the place of the others could be given a longer run to establish themselves. Though Naeem made runs against West Indies, Nafees didn't make any big scores in the series and Nazimuddin has been in poor form for most of the season.
Bashar was happy to see Mohammad Ashraful and Mominul Haque among the runs in the practice match, but he is still unsure who would open with Tamim or bat at No. 3. "We have a few places up for grabs, but we are happy that two of them got runs," Bashar said. "We are still thinking about the other opener's place, but we know what we want. And the opening position and the No. 3 hasn't been taken by someone regularly, so I think we have the options this time.
"Both have spent enough time in the middle to get a feel of the weather here, as well as the wickets. The bowling attack will be vastly different, but I would still think scoring 102 or 99 is crucial ahead of a Test series."
Ashraful, a last-minute inclusion to replace Nafees, made 102 in Matara batting at No. 3 and has indicated that he would like to continue in this position. He is a natural stroke-player, though, and might have to curb his shot-making if he wants to play at No. 3.
The selectors initially picked Mominul to fill Shakib's position in the middle-order and that is likely to be a straight swap in the Test team as well. Mominul, a left-hand batsman, played the ODIs against West Indies and turned in a crucial performance in the series-deciding fifth game. His 99 in the three-dayer came at a brisk pace which impressed the selectors, although there were periods at the end of sessions when he lost his rhythm trying to find boundaries.
There is likely to be a reshuffling in the batting line-up, with captain Mushfiqur Rahim coming up the order, though he is the wicketkeeper and his workload will be taken into account. It wouldn't be surprising if Mahmudullah gets a promotion after showing confidence and good form against West Indies. Nasir Hossain is another slight worry for the team, given his lack of runs recently.
Bashar's other worry is the pace attack. Rubel Hossain went through 19 overs on the first day in Matara but Abul Hasan struggled to stay on the field after bowling six overs as he suffered from dehydration. "I think we need another practice match to test our pace bowlers," he said. "We have Shahadat Hossain as back-up so we are thinking of a right combination."
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