Spinners choke West Indies again
The Bangladesh spinners, led by Mahmudullah, had a field day to bowl out West Indies for 237 on the opening day's play in Grenada. West Indies had got off to a bright start, courtesy an attacking fifty from Dale Richards, but Mahmudullah seized back the initiative with a clutch of wickets. West Indies rallied back through a gritty 95 from Travis Dowlin but West Indies have a lot of running to do in this Test. By close of play, Bangladesh had reached 35 for the loss of Imrul Kayes.
West Indies started well with a dashing knock from Richards and ended well with a fighting partnership between Dowlin and Ryan Austin. It was the interim phase where they played some poor cricket that led to their downfall, though. At least four batsmen fell to lame shots: Omar Phillips and Chadwick Walton threw their wickets away, Ryan Hinds played a loose drive, and David Bernard fell to a tame cut shot. You would have expected more commitment from a team trying to save the series. Even Richards' was a soft dismissal and through this series, the captain Floyd Reifer has looked out of his depth against spin. Bangladesh cashed in and how.
On a damp pitch that delayed the start by 30 minutes, Shakib Al Hasan chose to bowl and even the visitors must have been surprised at the spin track laid out for them by the curator. Shakib used himself and Enamul Haque jnr for lengthy spells, choosing to use Mahmudullah in short bursts. The West Indies start would have worried him, though.
West Indies were cruising at 104 for 1 when Mahmudullah lured Richards, who had just hit a six, to drive loosely back to him by dragging back the length a touch. Two balls later, he induced the same mistake from Hinds to lead Bangladesh's revival. Mahmudullah's art is not a complicated one; there aren't any bamboozling doosras, just some steady off spin and it has been working like a treat in this series. The visitors tightened the noose in the second session on a slow pitch and it was Mahmudullah again who started the damage post lunch. He got one to rip from the leg stump to trap Floyd Reifer in front.
Bernard joined Dowlin to wage a grim battle against the spinners but Bernard, who was batting serenely, continuing with his good form from the previous Test, cut a short delivery from Shakib straight to point to surrender his wicket cheaply. Enamul joined the party by catching Darren Sammy plumb in front and had Walton drive impetuously to mid-on.
Only Dowlin stood firm. He hails from Guyana and has obviously played a lot of spin. Unlike some of his team-mates, he was willing to play a patient game, nudging and defending his way out of trouble. When a bad ball came along he put it away with his sweeps and cuts but for the majority of time, he was caution personified. The best shot was a deft late-cut boundary against Enamul when the ball skidded on quickly. The left-arm spinners tried to get him out lbw and he did have a few nervous moments in the second session, but managed to stab the ball away. Post tea, he batted serenely to slowly lift West Indies out of the hole but eventually ran out of partners. He hit a six to reach 94 but fell immediately, trying to clear cover.
The morning's play couldn't have been more contrasting as Richards drove, cut and pulled his way to an attacking half-century. The seamers - Shahadat Hossain and Rubel Hossain - tried to hit the full length on a damp pitch but there wasn't much seam movement on offer and Richards took full toll. He started with couple of fluent drives and a smashing pull against Rubel before lifting the same bowler to the long-on boundary. He tried to impose himself against the spinners as well. He cut and pulled but the highlight was a lofted hit over long-on against Shakib. He looked good when he got on to the front foot against spin, and had a few iffy moments when he went back to arm-deliveries from Shakib and Enamul.
Phillips, the other opener, played a strange little innings. He was a pale shadow of the batsman who made the highest score for West Indies in the last Test. He didn't look too comfortable against seam or spin, and played some poor cricket to get out. He had just been dropped at mid-on but he tried to go for another big shot in the same over and holed out to deep midwicket. It was the beginning of the collapse.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo