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Flight plan helps Taijul soar

Taijul Islam appeals unsuccessfully for a wicket AFP

The moment the fourth ball of Taijul Islam's fifth over left his hand, it looked like a full-toss. The release had just not seemed right. All his previous deliveries, including the numerous flighted ones, were headed in the forward direction but this one appeared to have slipped off the hand: it had too high an upward angle. The batsman, Regis Chakabva, probably thought the same as he unleashed a big swing of his bat. The ball, however, dipped alarmingly and spat away to beat the bat.

That ripper did not result in a wicket but there were so many in Taijul's unchanged spell of 16.5 overs that an unlucky day became a statistical improbability. Every other delivery was given its due air-time and most of them ended up turning and bouncing, often catching the edge of the bat. Zimbabwe's batsmen were left befuddled as Taijul ran through the side, picking up eight wickets to register the best figures for a Bangladeshi bowler in only his third Test.

Bangladesh are using SG balls for the series, reportedly at the suggestion of coach Chandika Hathurusingha. The new balls allow the spinners a better grip but the bowlers also need time to adjust. It's possible that the only other time Taijul used them was in the practice match. Maybe it was his relative discomfort with the ball or the end he bowled from that made him a supporting act in the first innings. Shakib Al Hasan and Jubair Hossain extracted turn and bounce at the other end, but Taijul struggled with his lengths as he strived for flight.

Shakib went on to collect a six-for with a mixture of away-going deliveries and arm-balls. He opened in the second innings too, bowling one over on the second evening, but something made Mushfiqur Rahim opt for Taijul ahead of Shakib on the third morning. Taijul was moved to the press-box end and he struck gold.

The first over was about getting his length right and the magic started from the second. Chakabva was lucky to not edge one that drifted in before turning past his outside edge but Vusi Sibanda wasn't. Lured into a forward defence, Sibanda could only edge it to the wicketkeeper.

Thereon, Taijul found his rhythm. A short jog towards the crease, a fairly high leap for a diminutive spinner, the back arched backwards, a straight and high-arm action with a smooth release - they all became just happenstance as ball after ball landed around off with precision and he let the pitch do the rest.

Perhaps he was predictable but he was also predictably hard to budge from his zone, as Sikandar Raza found out. The batsman used his feet to hit the bowler for two consecutive sixes to long-off in an attempt to unsettle the young bowler. One would have expected the bowler to change something but Taijul did not. He floated the third one just like the previous two, the batsman stepped out just like the previous two, but, this time, ended up slicing one to cover. It was probably Taijul's best wicket as he out-thought the batsman and opened up Zimbabwe's batting.

The confidence of winning that mini-battle was visible in his next over as he prised out two batsmen in exactly the same fashion - loop, drift, turn and bounce, outside edge to slip. The anglerfish was laying a bait and the prey were lured in. Not too long ago, Taijul had picked up a five-for on debut, against West Indies. He made it a pleasant homecoming with the wicket of Craig Ervine, the batsman playing down the wrong line and getting trapped lbw.

As it started becoming clear that the match would end on the third day, the crowds began swelling. The organisers announced free entrance for school students and people poured in continuously through the eastern gates. "Shakib, Shakib", they chanted every time their favourite player came in to bowl. The chants for Taijul had probably not been worked out yet as the only roars during his bowling came when he picked up wickets, roars egging Bangladesh towards that elusive win.

The procession of batsmen continued and, for a while, it seemed that Taijul would run through the Zimbabwe batting in the first session itself. That was not to be, but he didn't take too long after lunch to wrap up the innings and overtake Shakib as the Bangladesh bowler with the best Test figures.

"The way Taijul has been working in the last four months, his hunger and eagerness, these are the reasons behind his success and that's what he deserves," Mushfiqur said. "The support which Shakib, Jubair and Shahadat [Hossain] gave him also mattered. That made it easier for him."

At the start of the Bangladesh innings, Taijul would have laughed if someone had told him his day was about to get better. As things panned out, it did get better. He came out to bat with the team crumbling, gave his captain company and smashed the winning boundary.