Zimbabwe v Bangladesh, 2nd Test, Harare April 23, 2013

Bangladesh struggle against the tide


While Chris Gayle was setting off enough fireworks to keep Harare lit up through a month of powercuts, Bangladesh's squad were doing a drill which involved walking while held back by a resistance band. It was a powerful contrast: on television, one man was batting with the freedom of a escaped prisoner; on the field, 18 others were being stifled as they tried to move forward.

Ask around and many will say that is their impression of Bangladesh's Test cricket. Although they have made definite strides in the shorter versions, their latest Test defeat smacked of regression. Those involved don't agree, however. "We know we didn't play as well as we could have," Shane Jurgensen, the Bangladesh coach, said. "We have come here to win but at the same time we know that Zimbabwe are a tough opponent.

"Losing a game is not ideal, especially as it was a game a lot of people may have expected us to win. But if you actually look at the record of Zimbabwe in their own country, they have performed quite well, so I don't understand why people seem to be very upset."

The anger is perfectly plausible: Bangladesh came to Zimbabwe as favourites and their opposition was knotted in turmoil. To lose by a margin as big as 335 runs was more of an embarrassment than it was just disappointing and it has set them back. Bangladesh must win the second Test to avoid their 38th series defeat.

They can start by batting in completely the opposite fashion to Gayle. "We didn't play with any patience and we need to improve that," Jurgensen said. "We just have to bat for longer. We did not last until the second new ball in each innings, we had no partnerships or players batting for long periods."

Bangladesh's highest partnership was 53 runs and although Mohammad Ashraful spent more than two hours at the crease in both innings, only one other batsman, Jahurul Islam, showed the same kind of staying power. "We have to be very disciplined in our approach to every ball, and do our basics right on this surface, which is a little bit foreign to us," Jurgensen said.

The surface may have had an effect but too often the Bangladesh batsmen got frustrated when runs dried up and Zimbabwe used that to their advantage. "We know that they are pretty attacking players and that if you starve them for runs, they create chances," Brendan Taylor, Zimbabwe's captain, said.

Mahmudullah was one of the players guilty of that and his position at No. 4 has been questioned but Jurgensen indicated his time had not run out just yet. "In the second innings he looked a bit more himself and it was a shame that he got out," he said. "He probably put a little pressure on himself but in the second innings he was looking positive, and played like the Mahmudullah we know. His footwork was positive."

While impatience was the problem with the bat, a lack of creativity hindered Bangladesh in the field. Mushfiqur Rahim was over-reliant on his left-arm spinner Enamul Haque Jr, under-bowled Sohag Gazi and did not have a third seamer to back up Robiul Islam and Rubel Hossain.

"In Test cricket, you have to play five days. We only played two days in the first Test and the other two days we were pretty terrible"
Bangladesh coach, Shane Jurgensen

"We should have probably picked three quicks but we went with our strength," Jurgensen said. "We just didn't bowl well enough for long enough. There were periods where we probably could have attacked them more, with different types of deliveries and different methods."

As a similar surface awaits them, Bangladesh may consider including one of Shafiul Islam or Ziaur Rahman and they will still rely heavily on Robiul. He was, by some distance, their best bowler and can be expected to exploit conditions again but Zimbabwe claim to have come up with a strategy. "We've done some video analysis and we've come up with ways to counter him - leave him a lot and play him straight rather than across the line," Taylor said.

And then there is the third department - fielding. While Zimbabwe seemed to have returned to the committed unit they were known to be, Bangladesh put down crucial chances, including Taylor on 35 in the first innings. "In recent times we have been fielding quite well, we just missed a couple of catches on that day," Jurgensen said. "Our slip fielding has been quite good, we have taken some good catches, but yes we have dropped some unfortunately. All I can say is that we are working hard on it."

The amount of time Bangladesh have put into training confirms Jurgensen's claims that they are practising at every opportunity. Their sessions are lengthy, well-organised and cover all departments intensely. But, it may be quality not quantity that's needed.

It may also be that the mental preparation is as important as the technical, especially because Jurgensen emphasised that concentration has to form a big part of their game in the next match. "Once the players cross that line they have to make sure they are concentrating every ball. There is a real fine focus," he said.

And that has to apply for much longer than the length of a Gayle IPL innings. "That's what's really important in Test cricket, you have to play five days. We only played two days in the first Test and the other two days we were pretty terrible. We need to improve that and make sure we compete for five days. If we do that we will get the result we want."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Farhan on April 24, 2013, 11:54 GMT

    I agree with the people who said that Mahmudullah have done well for BD against WI but at the moment he is not performing while in form Mominul can't get a place because of him so I think for the sake of team he should be dropped

  • Mark on April 24, 2013, 8:40 GMT

    Not with Siddons there you wont get any improvement, get your hands up blah blah

  • associate cricket fan on April 24, 2013, 3:49 GMT

    All the key players are back. Shakib also back they said. But still they end up losing to Zim by 335..lol. Infact its zim who are missing key players(Ervine, Mawoya, Price,Utseya, williams, vitori) from the side. Imagine what would happen to BD when these players return to team.

  • Andrew on April 24, 2013, 2:27 GMT

    I feared before this series, that Bangladesh had a backward step due & man did they deliver! Momentum is with Zim, Bangladesh need to compete in this Test. I definately think that the left arm seamer (Sajidul) needs to be the 3rd seamer for variety. Assuming Shakib can bowl properly now & with Mahmudullah also in the side, Bangladesh only need ONE specialist spinner!

  • Saeed Salehin on April 24, 2013, 2:04 GMT

    Good Luck tigers. You can do it... go for it... go tigers go

  • Mohammad Mahfuzul on April 24, 2013, 0:02 GMT

    I hope second test is more competitive than the first. I think Zim will be the winner this time too. I also did not understand Bangladesh tactics too. They picked only picked 2 fast bowler but they choose to bowl. As most people agree, when a team chooses to bat, they expects the pitch to be assisting the faster bowlers. So why pick 2 pace bowlers only when you knew the pitch is going to help the fast bowlers. Ridiculous!

  • Dummy4 on April 23, 2013, 21:35 GMT

    Thevillain u probbaly forgot that mahmudullah won us the whole odi series against west indies , plus in test match he has 29 , 63 and 76 . He was just bit of lack of self confidence , but when he gets out of that trust me mahmudullah will be unstopable in shaa allah , and we all know by kbow he is the best six hitter in bangladesh , check his sixes in bpl final

  • Dummy4 on April 23, 2013, 21:26 GMT

    I want Sajidul for Rubel and want to see Ziaur as well. Hope Sajidul does as well as Robiul and will be interesting how Zimbabwe play left arm pace.

  • Andrew on April 23, 2013, 19:12 GMT

    I agree with RMDover - Zim and Bangladesh should play a regular ashes-style series of 4 or 5 tests home and away. I expect Bangladesh to come out fighting and put in a much better performance so I'd still say Zim are underdogs. Let's hope they can give a good performance though.

  • Rafi on April 23, 2013, 18:24 GMT

    Although I really haven't been following this series, I can't help but notice that it is only two Tests. Both Zimbabwe and Bangladesh don't play enough Test cricket, and by playing more both sides will become more competitive. This series should be a 4-match series.

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