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April 23, 2013
News : Pitch questions for back-to-back Tests
News : BCB criticises team for Harare loss
Features : Robiul's bowling makes a quiet, effective impression
Series/Tournaments: Bangladesh tour of Zimbabwe
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 correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala