After his five-for in the first innings, Zaheer grabbed two more in the second to set up a comprehensive win
India's batting juggernaut set the table and a charged-up Zaheer Khan dug in as India wrapped up an innings-and-239-run victory inside three days in Dhaka to clinch the series against a lacklustre Bangladesh. Zaheer's 5 for 34 bowled the hosts out for 188 and when the follow-on was enforced under dark skies, there were only feisty half-centuries from Mohammad Ashraful
and Mashrafe Mortaza to delay the inevitable. India's fielding left much to be desired, but in all, this was grossly one-sided cricket in humid conditions on a lifeless track.
Weighed down by a mountainous 552-run deficit at the start of play,
Bangladesh collapsed meekly. As on the second day, Zaheer needed little
time to get stuck in. Second ball, he trapped Shakib Al Hasan leg before
with one brought in from outside off stump. Zaheer's fourth five-wicket
haul, and first since Brisbane 2003, came when he cleaned up Mohammad
Rafique - who raised 1000 runs in Tests during his 12 - with a full
Anil Kumble's three wickets polished Bangladesh off on a track with no
demons in it before Zaheer resumed service. Having handed Javed Omar
another first-ball duck, Zaheer came back first over after lunch to bounce
out a woefully out of form Habibul Bashar. That dismissal also brought
out the brilliant Ashraful, who drove and pulled with disdain during an
81-run fourth-wicket partnership with Rajin Saleh (42 from 46) that
encompassed just 55 balls.
When India toured in late 2004, Ashraful played the Test innings of his
life in a lost cause at Chittagong. Here, he threatened to repeat that in
far more brutal fashion with 67 from just 41 balls. Debutant Ishant Sharma
pitched it up, Ashraful drove, head straight and feet in place for 14
runs. RP Singh dropped short, and Ashraful pulled, all wrist and late on
the roll, for six. And when Zaheer strayed even fractionally, Ashraful
sent the ball to the off-side boundaries at will.
With Ashraful on 57 from just 30 balls, Rahul Dravid turned to Kumble. A
gentle shoulder-warmer was floated up and Ashraful drove to the cover
boundary, but he then flicked one to midwicket to end a brief but
belligerent innings. Ramesh Powar dismissed Saleh, Shakib Al Hasan and
Khaled Mashud in quick succession but there was resistance from Mohammad
Sharif and Mortaza (70 from 68), who added 54 for the eighth wicket.
Butterfingers set in as Dravid dropped one and Dinesh Karthik two off the
spinners, but Kumble showed them how to do it with a smart
caught-and-bowled after Sharif misread a googly. Rafique fell leg before
to Tendulkar and when Mortaza slogged Tendulkar up in the air shortly
after blitzing a second Test fifty, it was all over.
The Bangladesh side that turned up at the brand new Sher-e-Bangla stadium
looked remarkably like the faltering team of old. They were unable to bowl
a side out, shoddy with their fielding, and shaky with the bat. India,
conversely, dominated every session.
The plan was to bat just once, and a torrent of runs took them to a
mammoth 610 for 3 declared before Zaheer found proof of life in a comatose
surface. Having made his Test debut in 2000 at the Bangabandhu National
Stadium downtown, Zaheer looked an accomplished bowler in this series.
What India will take from this game is the noise that he, Karthik and
Wasim Jaffer made with a long summer in England looming on the horizon.
The opposition will be a lot tougher, but at least India can depart with
that winning feeling.
Jamie Alter is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo