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For a side that has lost an overwhelming majority of their Tests, a draw - whether on a featherbed or not - is a result to savour
Mohammad Isam in Galle
March 12, 2013
How an uninteresting day of Test match cricket can essentially be a blessing was witnessed in Galle. Boring was good, nay great, for Bangladesh.
An interesting end to this game would have meant Bangladesh wickets falling quickly in the final sessions, and that was not going to be appropriate for a team that had posted a 600-plus score in the first innings. It was contested on a wicket that smothered any contest, but it is not the first time Bangladesh played on a featherbed. On 24 previous occasions a team has scored more than 500 against them and won handsomely.
In the context of a side that has lost 65 out of 76 Test matches, a draw has to be a positive result, though it is not too popular an idea for many. But this was exactly the sort of Test match that this team has worked on for years, especially the last five when they have shown steady improvement under Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan.
This was Bangladesh's eighth drawn Test match and only the second one in which playing time was not lost. The only other occasion was against Zimbabwe at home in 2005. Indeed against a major Test side, this was the first time they had drawn a game. Besides Bangladesh's Test wins against a young Zimbabwe in 2005 and a third-string West Indies in 2009, this is their best result in Test cricket given the opposition, the track record against the opposition and the very fact that Bangladesh had never taken the game into the fifth day in eight previous Tests in Sri Lanka. And not to forget, Bangladesh were understrength due to the absence of two of their major players.
Sri Lanka led by 48 runs on the fifth day, and as Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan picked up centuries, the Bangladesh fielders were visibly struggling. There were dives over the ball, several fumbles and offspinner Sohag Gazi had to rest due to leg cramps, and could bowling only 15 overs.
Mushfiqur was wary of what had happened on the fifth day against West Indies just three months ago. They had to chase 245 in more than two sessions but froze when it mattered - the bouncers were not handled properly and it ended up as a 77-run loss despite Bangladesh making their then highest Test score.
In preparation for this fifth day, the captain held two meetings with all the players, first after the end of the fourth day's play and then during warm-up on the fifth morning. The message was simple: "work harder on the fifth day, more than the first four days".
He emphasised the importance of not giving up, despite the physical struggle in the heat. This time, the goal was to just hold on till the end but there were hiccups with the bat too. The wicket of Anamul Haque highlighted the young opener's struggle against the swinging ball and perhaps more work on his technique is due. Jahurul Islam and Mohammad Ashraful, on whom all the focus was on after he had made 190, just about held on.
Mushfiqur later said the experience of the Dhaka Test last November played a part in their approach to the fifth day. They did not cower under the pressure of expectations, neither did they play their best cricket. They survived for five hours, and that's what they often fail to do.
Test cricket was certainly not been the winner in this game, but the competition provided by the underdogs provided some joy. Sri Lanka played it safe in the first session, probably not taking the risk of letting Bangladesh have a crack at a small total or a slower asking run-rate. This chunk of respect is what Mushfiqur and the rest of the Bangladesh team should strive to gain in every Test match. It cannot always be about winning, that's what this Test match has explained to Bangladesh.
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