Follow-on may have gone out of fashion but it still has a psychological effect on the team that is lagging behind in the Test. It would have certainly put Zimbabwe under pressure on a fourth day Shere Bangla National Stadium pitch that is reputed to deteriorate quickly. With a first-innings lead of 218 runs, Bangladesh still chose to bat again instead of going with an attacking mindset in a must-win game for them.
Zimbabwe grabbing four early wickets almost derailed the home team's plans though. Bangladesh lost three wickets - Imrul Kayes, Liton Das and Mominul Haque - within the first six overs of morning's play and then Mushfiqur Rahim just after the drinks break, to leave them on 25 for 4. The 400-run lead was only achieved thanks to Mahmudullah and Mohammad Mithun, who added 118 runs for the fifth wicket, and then another critical contribution from Mehidy Hasan.
Should Bangladesh have enforced the follow-on?
The visitors had lasted 105.3 overs, mostly on the second day when the pitch was at its best for batsmen. Mehidy said that their plan was to prevent Zimbabwe from getting away with the game.
"We had two days in hand. They were 218 runs behind us. We wanted them to bat in the last innings," Mehidy explained. "Anything can happen in Test cricket. [If they were made to follow-on], they may have batted well and given us a target of 100-150 runs. So why should we take that risk?
"I wanted them to bat on a deteriorated wicket where there will be more turn and more chances for wickets. We wanted them to take the risk, not us as we are on the back foot having lost a Test. We are very serious about [winning] this and we are giving our all."
Bangladesh may have chosen to bat before the last day keeping in mind their recent poor batting shows; they had been bowled out for less than 170 for eight straight innings before amassing 522 in Dhaka. Perhaps the idea to make Zimbabwe bat last made sense because that is how they had beaten big teams like England (2016) and Australia (2017) at the same ground - by bowling them out for 164 and 244, respectively.
But what if Bangladesh did enforce the follow-on?
With the 218-run cushion, they could have accelerated towards a Test win, something they haven't done for 14 months. Bangladesh's spinners have helped them win three of the last five Tests at this venue, against Australia (2017), England (2016) and Zimbabwe (2014). Even if the current Zimbabwe side had batted better than they did in the first innings, Bangladesh would have had to chase a small total, perhaps on the fifth afternoon.
Maybe without Shakib Al Hasan, there isn't as much confidence in the spinners even though Taijul Islam has so far taken 16 wickets in three innings while Mehidy has been getting breakthroughs too. Even Mustafizur Rahman and debutant Khaled Ahmed have been largely economical, without yet being penetrating.
So lack of confidence in the bowlers may not be the major issue with Bangladesh's decision-makers. If Mehidy read the dressing room vibe correctly, it was indeed safety first that ruled their thoughts.
Bangladesh ultimately achieved the 400-run lead in 48.1 overs, and then batted another 5.5 overs, during which Mahmudullah completed his second Test century in eight years. Perhaps, the plan wasn't just to keep Zimbabwe from batting extraordinarily. Bangladesh may have wanted to give their batsmen another hit. But Imrul and Liton continued to get low scores while Mominul and Mushfiqur were disappointingly erratic in their strokeplay.
Bangladesh eventually sent confusing signals by wanting to bat a second time in the game. They are trailing 1-0 against Zimbabwe, so pressing for victory should have been their priority. Instead, they chose the safer option of batting again. Regardless of the result in Dhaka on the fifth day, Bangladesh clearly didn't portray a winning mentality.