Game in balance despite West Indies lead
It was a cat-and-mouse affair in Kingstown. Every time West Indies threatened to get too far ahead, Bangladesh struck back to leave the game in balance. West Indies, courtesy contributions from Omar Phillips, David Bernard, and Darren Sammy did gain a vital 69-run lead but they have to bat last on a pitch which is increasingly offering assistance to the spinners.
While Bernard and Sammy spiced up the afternoon with their positive batting, it was Phillips who set the platform with a patient 94 in the morning. There were occasional losses in concentration - first when he reached 50 and then, as he neared the debut century - but for the majority of the time, he was quite solid.
When the day started everyone knew Bangladesh's chances of coming back in the game lay in the hands of their spinners and in particular, Shakib Al Hasan. However, he was thwarted by the slow pitch, the determined Phillips and nightwatchman Ryan Austin. There was spin, and occasional bounce too, for Shakib but the ball came on slowly, allowing the batsmen the time to adjust.
Bangladesh were also hampered by the fact that Mashrafe Mortaza left the field, leaving Shakib to captain, with the score on 38 when he collapsed after delivering the ball and hurt his right knee. But they were kept in the hunt by their bowling debutants - the slinger Rubel Hossain, who bowled well with the old ball, and the offspinner Mahmudullah, who decided that on this pitch it was better to push the ball through a tad quicker to get the results.
For their part, Phillips and Austin put their heads down and concentrated hard on survival. Philips displayed a simple technique to reach a half-century; he used the crease well, going back or forward as the length demanded, to tackle the spinners. Now and then, he lunged forward to lift the ball over mid-on or mid-off and as the bowlers dragged back the length, he was quick to go back to cut it through point.
Austin gave him admirable support with his stoic defense. For a nightwatchman, he displayed a sound ability to survive, displaying enough awareness to use the slowness of the track and hang on the back foot to tackle the spinners. It took a full delivery from Rubel to induce an edge that was taken very low by Imrul Kayes in the slip cordon.
Phillips looked set to take his team into the lead but a rush of blood cost him his wicket, and a century on debut, as he failed to curb his instincts, striking Rubel straight to short cover. Dave Bernard, however, took charge after Phillips fell to push West Indies past the Bangladesh total; he played attractively, lashing out at every opportunity to drive through the off side. He started with two cover drives and a square drive against Rubel and even hit Mahmudullah for a six over long-off. But the shot of his innings was a delicious inside-out extra-cover drive against Shakib. He took care not to press the front foot across against Shakib, who is always looking for the lbw decision, and chose to drive with the turn.
The West Indies captain Floyd Reifer assisted Bernard well. He started off with a couple of square drives - the second hit on a bent knee being the highlight - against Rubel but, once Bernard arrived and started timing from the word go, he dropped anchor and concentrated on rotating the strike.
At this point West Indies were sitting pretty at 227 for 4 but Mahmudullah struck at the stroke of tea, removing Reifer - lured into edging to slip - and wicketkeeper Chadwick Walton - caught at backward short leg - off successive deliveries to bring Bangladesh back into the game. And when Shahadat Hossain had Bernard pulling the new ball straight to deep midwicket it looked like West Indies had squandered a good start, but Sammy fought back, playing several feisty drives to build a crucial lead.
Sammy played almost similarly to Bernard, choosing to loft the spinners, in particular Shakib, over the off-side field. The stand-out shot was a lovely lofted drive, with the turn, over extra-cover. He was the last man out, bowled while playing inside the line to Mahmudullah, but had given West Indies a slight advantage. However, by the end of play, the Bangladesh openers had reduced the deficit to 43. Game on.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo