Second Test

Bangladesh v India

Amit Varma

At Chittagong, December 17, 18, 19, 20, 2004. India won by an innings and 83 runs. Toss: India. Test debut: Nazmul Hossain.

After the canter to victory in the First Test, the Indian team, and its latest hero, Pathan, would have been forgiven for thinking the Second would be no harder. But results did not come quite as quickly as they anticipated after they had won the toss and chosen to bat on a Chittagong pitch that had none of the pace or bounce of Dhaka. The ball did not come on to the bat, and big shots did not fetch their reward - at least not until Mohammad Ashraful showed how it was done with a sparkling century to ease the pain of another defeat for Bangladesh.

Mashrafe bin Mortaza, the one Bangladeshi bowler who would push for a spot in most Test teams, was playing his first series in more than a year after a knee injury, and he made an impact by dismissing Sehwag cheaply. Then India dug deep. Gambhir, anxious for his maiden Test hundred, and Dravid, keen to score a century in Bangladesh to become the first man to reach three figures in all ten Test-playing countries, put on 259 for the second wicket, and ground Bangladesh's bowlers into the dust. Gambhir fell towards the end of the first day, having faced 196 balls for his 139, but this only heightened the anticipation, as Sachin Tendulkar helped himself to 36, and, with four full days to play, looked almost certain to go past Gavaskar's tally of 34 Test centuries. Then, with the first ball of the second day, a corker that pitched on line and darted in just enough to beat Tendulkar's defence and trap him plumb in front, Mashrafe raised Bangladesh's sagging morale. But it was a false dawn, for with Tendulkar's record hunt out of the way, India were free to bat normally. Dravid scored 160 from 304 balls with 24 fours, Ganguly hit 88, and India racked up 540.

Bangladesh responded with their usual inconsistency, resisting at first, then slumping to 54 for three, before Ashraful played the innings of the tour. His forthright biffing of the fast bowlers - hooking while hopping on one leg à la Gordon Greenidge - and his effervescent thwacking of the spinners got the crowd to its feet. He paced his way to 50 from 70 balls, then needed just 55 more to reach his second Test century, racing from 76 to three figures with seven consecutive scoring shots. If anything, that spurred him on, for he unfurled such authoritative and audacious strokes that India were forced to spread the field to him, close it in to his partners, and hope for a mistake. The mistake never came from Ashraful, who scored 158 not out from only 194 balls with 24 fours and three sixes, beating the previous best by Bangladesh: Aminul Islam's 145 in the inaugural Test, also against India. But he ran out of partners, and eight runs short of the follow-on mark of 341, the last man was sent back. India's bowlers regrouped for the kill. Bangladesh duly capitulated without so much as a whimper.

Pathan, who probed without instant success in the first innings, found his groove, and Bangladesh were teetering on the brink of defeat at 118 for nine when the third day ended. It took India just four balls on the fourth to wrap things up.

Man of the Match: Mohammad Ashraful. Man of the Series: I. K. Pathan.

© John Wisden & Co