Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan didn't start their 50th Test in any different fashion compared to the past. Not for the first time, they pulled Bangladesh out of a hole. By Shakib's admission, they didn't have to say much to each other. At 10 for 3, there's not much left to say anyway.
All they did was put freedom and boldness in the forefront as they switched smoothly between aggression and doggedness that have become their hallmark this year. The pair added 155 runs for the fourth wicket, a partnership that was more focused on avoiding a bad situation get worse than going on the counterattack.
Shakib rarely played anything that posed a threat to his outside edge, but provided width, he whipped and slashed at the ball. Tamim had a more rudimentary mix of drives and dead defences. His inside-out strokes breathed life into a dressing room that didn't give off a lot of confidence. He looked in control, especially to the deliveries that he left, hardly looking pushed by pace.
Shakib later said the ball was turning from the start of his innings and it made them re-adjust a target in their mind. Australia losing three wickets in the last nine overs vindicated much of their prediction.
"It was quite challenging to bat out there," Shakib said at the end of the day. "Tamim and I had to apply ourselves to the situation. It was an important partnership. We may be in the driving seat but we need to take seven more wickets. They have some batting left too, so we have to focus well. Every day gives you a new situation in Test cricket.
"The ball was turning from the start. We felt that it was going to be tough for them too. We wanted to get to 250, which we were able to do. I think Nasir [Hossain], [Mehidy Hasan] Miraz and Shafiul [Islam] added important runs."
Shakib and Tamim are the pinnacle of Bangladesh cricket, and one of the factors that helped them reach the stage was being allowed longevity. Both went through dips in form and there were question marks next to their names, none more so than for Tamim.
But to provide them with some sanity in the mad world of Bangladesh's selection policy, they were never asked to bat in different positions. Tamim has always opened, Shakib has always manned the middle order. Known roles have helped them for the last ten years. In fact, both batsmen can hardly be questioned currently despite adding to their list of dismissals in the seventies and eighties, and having an ordinary conversion rate.
The same cannot be said for the other batsmen, however, despite what each of them project in different capacities. Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes and Sabbir Rahman were as much the victims of Pat Cummins' skills as they were of being placed at the wrong time in the wrong place.
Soumya replaced Imrul in Christchurch earlier this year after the latter got injured. Soumya's four Test fifties this year only provided quick bursts of runs for Bangladesh, never the type of longevity that is the prime requirement of a Test innings.
Imrul has admitted that batting at No. 3 is difficult for him. Someone who has formed Bangladesh's most successful opening pair shouldn't be asked to bat anywhere else. It breaks the rhythm. Sabbir, meanwhile, also isn't No. 4 material. He had a brace of forties in March but it was, like Imrul's No. 3 stint, a makeshift role.
Without laying too much blame on the batsmen, who still have another chance to amend themselves, it is far more relevant to see why they were put in that position. The team management clearly didn't want to break the top four of Bangladesh's last Test, in which they beat Sri Lanka in Colombo. But with Mosaddek Hossain and Subashis Roy already out, the combination was altered. But there were hardly signs of proactive decision-making. Instead, they dug up a hole.
This particular hole, in which they lost three wickets in the first 20 minutes of the Test, was three unsettled batsmen being asked to take first strike against a top pace attack in the first match of the international season. It is not that they were ill-equipped or under-trained, but a more senior-centric approach early on would have probably avoided such a poor start.
Mominul Haque and Mahmudullah were dropped more as a punishment for looking bad in Galle, but to keep them out in a crucial home Test series smacks of rigidity on the part of the selection committee and the team management. Mominul was ultimately restored in the squad, mainly due to public pressure, but he was never going to make it into the XI, at least for this game.
Imrul has already said that he has been given no guarantees of a longer stint in the new role, which doesn't send great signals to Soumya and Sabbir either.
Soumya had to wait for his turn in the opener's position but hasn't settled in with Tamim yet. Imrul has a track record that shows that having him open the innings works well for Bangladesh. He has never been given a long run in the Test side despite playing Tamim's supporting role quite well. If Soumya fails again, he could probably run out of luck with the team management. Will it be fair on him though?
Sabbir must also be given a longer run, but down the order where he can use his natural ability to strike the ball. This was clearly on display on his Test debut last year when he nearly slayed England with a late charge during a tight chase. That's what he does best. But as the Bangladesh team management showed him during the Champions Trophy, he is not a trusted No. 3 in ODIs despite being groomed to do the job for that particular tournament.
If more trust is placed on these young talents, the transition from dependency on the Shakibs and Tamims to the Mominuls, Soumyas and Sabbirs will be smoother. There is still plenty of time left for these young batsmen but a short-term vision from the authorities can limit any fine career. Right now, it seems as if many of these youngsters are one innings away from being punished, putting a lot of pressure on them for the second innings which will direct the way Bangladesh go in this Test.