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Toss: Bangladesh. Test debuts: Bangladesh (all); S. S. Das, S. S. Karim, Zaheer Khan.
For at least two-thirds of this contest, Bangladesh surpassed all expectations by matching their neighbours, and at times even enjoying the upper hand. Ultimately, they lacked the stamina, experience and, possibly, the self-belief to overcome an Indian side well short of their best, although ending a run of 22 away Tests without success since they beat Sri Lanka at Colombo in August 1993. Australia, who beat England in 1876-77, and Zimbabwe, who drew with India in 1992-93, remained the only countries to avoid defeat on Test debut.
The quiet pessimism of those who felt Bangladesh would struggle to make India bat twice seemed well founded. They had failed to win any of their previous ten first-class matches, and had just completed a chastening tour of South Africa. Furthermore, their selection process was exposed as chaotic when two of the most experienced players, Enamul Haque and Habibul Bashar, were reinstated in the squad at the personal behest of board president Chowdhury, to the governing body's embarrassment. It was a reflection of how successfully they began that the expected defeat was eventually greeted with widespread disappointment, and heavy newspaper criticism for their second-innings collapse. If the players learned anything, it was that supporters have short memories.
Expectations were raised largely through the performance of Aminul Islam, a familiar figure on English club grounds. His 145 represented the third century for a country playing their inaugural Test, and the highest since Australian Charles Bannerman retired hurt on 165 in 1876-77. Only Dave Houghton of Zimbabwe had achieved the feat in between. Aminul demonstrated great patience, underpinning Bangladesh's first innings for 535 minutes of solid graft, hitting 17 fours from his 380 balls. Before the end of the game, he was a taka millionaire on donations alone, although an exchange rate of 80 takas to the pound meant this was not quite the fortune it appeared. He added 66 for the third wicket with Habibul Bashar, who lived up to his name with some beefy strikes against an attack badly missing Anil Kumble. Indian wicket-keeper Saba Karim suffered a torrid induction, and Srinath seemed rusty on his return from injury. Only Joshi, the left-arm spinner, exerted both control and menace, returning five for 142, the best figures of his punctuated Test career.
Almost as important as the 400 runs they scored, Bangladesh occupied the crease for more than ten hours on a pitch showing signs of variable bounce. When Tendulkar fell to a catch at short leg to leave India 190 for five, the possibility grew of a result that could, without exaggeration, have been described as sensational. However, Ganguly, captaining his country for the first time in Tests, and Joshi added 121 for the seventh wicket late on the third day to bring India closer to parity. A missed opportunity to run out Joshi just after tea proved crucial; only 12 at the time, he scored a Test-best 92 lasting four hours.
Captain Naimur Rahman returned six for 132, bettered only by Bannerman's colleague Tom Kendall (seven for 55) for a side in its first Test. But the fact that India's last three wickets saw them through to lunch on the fourth day clearly had a dispiriting effect on Bangladesh. Morale depreciated further when Srinath forced Shahriar Hossain to retire hurt after a short ball struck him on the head. The discipline they had shown first time around deserted them, with Mehrab Hossain, driving loosely, and Habibul, hooking compulsively, particularly at fault. Bangladesh's first-innings 400 had been the second-highest total on Test debut, after Zimbabwe's 456 against India; now 91 was the second-lowest, after South Africa's 84 against England in 1888-89. Dravid and Das saw India home comfortably under floodlights, switched on as the light started to fade.
Man of the Match: S. B. Joshi.
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