For a little over two hours, Mushfiqur Rahim fought hard to keep Bangladesh afloat. With each over, the job got harder; particularly after they had slipped to 43 for five inside 20 overs. He managed to stave off every effort from Nathan Lyon to sneak between his bat and pad, as it had happened in the first innings, or get him to pop a catch to one of the close-in fielders.
Just as Mushfiqur was getting the hang of a prickly situation in the middle of the second session, Pat Cummins got him to feel for a delivery that was tailing away. Matthew Wade took the edge and Cummins celebrated with a double fist-pump. Mushfiqur, the big-hearted performer, who has battled through several difficult segments of play over the last nine months, started to walk even before the umpire had raised his finger.
Mushfiqur kept his head down after his dismissal, as Lyon ran in from the covers to give him one last send-off. The pair had had a go at each other in the over before lunch after Lyon had said something to him. The Bangladesh captain had to be pulled away by umpire Ian Gould, who told Mushfiqur that he had heard what Lyon had said.
Mushfiqur kept walking to the pavilion, slowly, telling the approaching Mominul Haque something about the pitch. 'Look out for that spot', he seemed to say. But he knew the fight was over with only the tail and Mominul left to fend off a strong Australian attack.
He took his time in the post-match conference to explain what goes wrong with Bangladesh when they approach a defensive period of play to save a match. The last time they had done a satisfactory job of it was against Pakistan in Khulna two years ago, when Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes notched up a second-innings world-record stand of 312 for the opening wicket, before Shakib Al Hasan shepherded them to safety in the evening. Since then, an effort to enforce a draw hasn't happened - neither at home nor abroad. They have won in Colombo, though, chasing a challenging total with Mushfiqur in the middle till the end.
But for someone who oversaw the missed chances of drawing Tests in Wellington, Hyderabad and Galle, the Chittagong failure is, perhaps, their most heartbreaking. They had Australia on the mat in the Dhaka Test, spinning them out twice within three days, but couldn't finish off the job on a familiar pitch at a ground where they have usually found ways to draw games in the recent past - against New Zealand and Sri Lanka in 2013 and 2014.
The failure to set up shop in the first session in Chittagong also brought into question Mushfiqur's role in the team - not that he lacks one but, perhaps, he has way too many. He was possibly the most well-equipped batsman to tackle Lyon by going up to No. 4 but said that he couldn't be expected to do the job after having kept wickets for 119.5 overs. "It is a difficult question for me. It was a tactical move on our part but if you are talking about me, I would say it was not my sole responsibility to bat at No. 4 after keeping for 120 overs," Mushfiqur said. "I can't go out to bat at No. 4 when we are batting first and then move to No. 6 if we are batting second. It doesn't happen anywhere. You can take this risk once or twice and it might not even click in those occasions."
Instead, Bangladesh sent in an unsure Nasir Hossain, who didn't get the counter-attack on or could hold up one end; essentially, they made No. 4 a hole by sending Mominul all the way down to No. 8, while Shakib, Mushfiqur, and Sabbir went in at positions that they would be comfortable in.
Mushfiqur said that he doesn't decide where he wants to bat or whether he has to be the wicketkeeper. It is the decision of those above him, he added.
"It is not up to me. It was not my decision not to keep wickets in Sri Lanka. I don't have any problem keeping wickets. I want to contribute to the team in any way possible for as long as I play. It doesn't matter if I am not the captain or the keeper. I will give my all if I am told to be the 12th man. I will do as the team management says. You better ask this question to the higher authorities." he said. "It would also make things clear for me."
There is little doubt that Mushfiqur is a passionate character who has given it all for Bangladesh's cause. He will be questioned as a captain for his reactive outlook and his fickle wicket-keeping. It is definite, though, that his batting must take precedence over those two commitments as has been pointed out several times in the last three years.
To see him walk off the ground, head bowed, was similar to seeing a battered boxer being told he had lost a knockout. Mushfiqur, however, was a boxer tasked with beating his opponent on three fronts, an unrealistic expectation. Thursday afternoon in Chittagong was stark proof of that.