First Test

West Indies v Bangladesh

Fazeer Mohammed

At Gros Islet, St Lucia, May 28, 29, 30, 31, June 1, 2004. Drawn. Toss: Bangladesh. Test debuts: Faisal Hossain, Tareq Aziz.

Heartened by having competed well in the limited-overs series, Bangladesh showed gutsy resilience to win a deserved, and significant, draw. From a shaky 79 for six on the fourth evening, a lead of 143, they rallied so strongly that by the fifth, Habibul Bashar could enjoy the luxury of their first-ever declaration. And enjoy it he did: his team had avoided defeat in only two of their 28 previous Tests - and both escapes had been down to the weather. For a side still taking small, faltering steps forward, an honourable draw represented triumph.

Having chosen to bat on a sun-drenched opening day, Habibul saw Hannan Sarkar fall to the very first ball, but he himself pulled and hooked merrily en route to a third Test century. His 113 ended, on the first afternoon, as it had so often prospered, with a hook to deep backward square leg. It was Lawson's first wicket after a year out of Test cricket because of a suspect action and a bad back.

The inevitable wet weather - St Lucia in May receives almost twice as much rain as Manchester in December - meant only 41.1 overs were bowled on the second day and 62.4 on the fourth. For once Bangladesh did not need the assistance. The two Mohammads, Ashraful and Rafique, capitalised on dropped chances and by the third morning had boosted 250 for seven to 416, their highest in Tests (beating 400 in their first Test innings, against India at Dhaka in 2000-01). Though Ashraful's luck ran out on 81, when he was lbw to Lawson, Rafique, batting at No. 9, surged to a maiden first-class hundred in style. He was last out for 111, after an innings spiced with 11 fours and three sixes. Bangladesh's lower order had distinguished themselves, aided by undisciplined bowling and shockingly poor catching.

Bangladeshi spirits soared even higher when Devon Smith, recently recovered from a broken thumb, was run out before scoring on the third morning. But then they too were let down by bad catching. Chance after embarrassingly easy chance was put down, with Gayle chief beneficiary in his innings of 141 - his fifth Test century, decorated with crunching drives off both front and back foot. But, worryingly for West Indies, even after that alarming level of fielding incompetence, Bangladesh still took a lead of 64: Mushfiqur Rahman, having removed Lara, then preyed on a weak-looking tail for Test-best figures of four for 65.

However, all that effort seemed wasted in the midst of a second-innings collapse. Sarwan took three wickets in two overs late on the fourth day with his usually innocuous leg-spin, leaving Bangladesh tottering at 94 for six at the close, a lead of just 158. On the cloudless final morning West Indies walked out strong favourites, only for Khaled Mashud - previous Test-best 61 - to defy every challenge Lara threw at him. He showed a cool temperament and solid technique in trying circumstances, and by the time he reached his hundred, driving Gayle through cover point for a 13th boundary, the match had long since been saved. Lara bowled both part-time spinners, Gayle and Sarwan, and later went public with his unhappiness about the attack the selectors had handed him: "It was evident at quite an early stage that leaving out the spinner was not in our best interests."

With a lead of 335, Habibul proudly declared on the last evening. There were no wickets before the end, as Gayle and Devon Smith built an unbroken stand of 113. But the honours belonged to Bangladesh. Asked about his strategy for the next Test, the delighted Habibul replied: "Jamaica is far away, man. I'm not thinking about Jamaica tonight."

Man of the Match: C. H. Gayle.

© John Wisden & Co