First Test Match

Pakistan v Bangladesh

Utpal Shuvro


At Karachi, August 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 2003. Pakistan won by seven wickets. Toss: Pakistan. Test debuts: Mohammad Hafeez, Shabbir Ahmed, Umar Gul, Yasir Hameed; Rajin Saleh.

Test cricket returned to Pakistan after a gap of nearly 16 months, but the spectators still stayed away. Although the official attendance was not counted, on each of the five days police and security men outnumbered the few hundred spectators. Unusually for a Test involving Bangladesh, those who turned up saw cricket which was generally competitive and sometimes riveting. Bangladesh showed remarkable tenacity, and the eventual seven-wicket margin of their defeat did not reflect the real picture. At the end of the third day, the underdogs were 105 runs ahead with seven second innings wickets in hand.

Rashid Latif, the captain of Pakistan, admitted it was the worst sleepless night of his career. But on the next day, Bangladesh's inexperience showed. As the lead grew to 193, with five wickets left, an upset was still on the cards. But that soon changed: their last five wickets fell for only 23 runs.

Pakistan were left a victory target of 217, which they achieved without fuss. Along the way, Yasir Hameed, one of four Pakistan debutants, wrote his name in the record books by scoring his second century of the match. It was a pivotal performance. In the first innings, Yasir saved Pakistan by scoring 170 - almost half the total. And, by taking his side to the brink of victory with 105 in the second, he joined Lawrence Rowe of West Indies (who hit 214 and 100 not out against New Zealand at Kingston in 1971-72) with two centuries on Test debut. On his first-class debut, made on this same ground in 1996-97, Yasir had bagged a pair.

He dedicated his achievements to his late father, a lawyer who used to say that, one day, his son would play for Pakistan and score a century on debut. Even a proud father's dreams hadn't stretched to two. Pencil-thin, and with all the shots in the book, Yasir was particularly strong through the off side on the back foot. Pakistan finally seemed to have found an answer to their long-standing problem at No. 3. In the first innings, Bangladesh, who had never managed more than 160 in three previous Tests against Pakistan, had surprised their hosts by scoring 288 after being inserted on a green-tinged wicket. But the grass was misleading and the pitch turned out to be perfect for batting. Hannan Sarkar and Habibul Bashar laid a foundation with 114 for the second wicket, Habibul's 71 coming from only 72 balls. The best puller among the Bangladeshi batsmen, he took on Shoaib Akhtar and three of Shoaib's first six balls to him disappeared for four. Habibul continued to play audacious shots but he and Sarkar undid some of their good work by getting out in consecutive overs.

After Yasir helped to give Pakistan a 58-run first-innings lead, Habibul did even better in the second innings. Often referred to as "Mr Fifty" in Bangladesh for his inability to convert half-centuries into hundreds, he became the first Bangladesh batsman to make two Test centuries. The 21 months and 14 Tests since their last hundred had been an abject period for Bangladeshi cricket. After this battling performance, they could hold their heads a little higher.

Man of the Match: Yasir Hameed.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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