Bangladesh had shut the door too early on the last day of the second Test without ever pushing for a win, but for them a series victory really was much more important, because it was a result they had not seriously considered before.
"I feel the draw was better than a win," said Dav Whatmore, Bangladesh's coach. "When you take a risk or two chasing a very large total to win a match and a wicket falls, it becomes very difficult for the next batsman coming in. If we had done that [going for a win], then we may have found ourselves in a difficult situation, more difficult than the position we [eventually] were in. We were the leaders in the series: they had to chase us."
Whatmore admitted that he was pleasantly surprised at the doggedness shown by his batsmen - they played out 142 overs to draw the second Test to win the series 1-0 thanks to the 226-run victory in the first Test. "Saving the Test here went a long way in showing people that batsmen of Bangladesh are not just about crash, bang, wallop, who get a lot of runs in a short space of time," he explained. "We do have the ability to occupy the crease for long periods of time. In the greater picture of Bangladesh's cricket, this is very significant. That is why I had said that today's result was better than a victory. The team realised that they didn't do the right things on the second day. We didn't bat too well in the first innings. I think they were all very committed in putting a few things right and in the second innings they batted with a lot of commitment and purpose which pleased everyone."
Man-of-the-series Enamul Haque Jr. was outstanding throughout: he took 18 wickets in the two Tests - a Bangladesh series record - including three consecutive five-wicket hauls. But Whatmore said that the efforts of Enamul, an 18-year old left-arm spinner, were only expected because of the kind of talent he possesses. "To be honest, I wasn't surprised," Whatmore admitted. "A lot of people, a lot of his team-mates, [and] his captain believed that he had the potential to create a lot of problems for the opposition. He showed a little glimpse of his ability against England here in 2003. There were some very positive comments that came from the England team. We know now that we have a little gem in our hands."
Whatmore paid tribute to the efforts of the Zimbabwe captain Tatenda Taibu who almost single-handedly created a winning situation for his teamwith scores of 85 not out and 153: "He was very positive. He's a very good player and was the most difficult for us to shift. He will be a tough obstacle for us in the one-day series also."
Habibul Bashar, Bangladesh's captain, was relieved that the dream for a series win had finally become reality. He said that chasing 374 was never seriously considered. "You have got to remember that we were leading the series 1-0," he explained. "Trying to win this Test on the last day could have been risky. Besides, Zimbabwe did not want to force a result and kept a defensive field from the start of our second innings. They wanted us to make mistakes and we did not want to play into their hands."
Nafis Iqbal, the Bangladesh opening batsman, batted for just less than eight hours in the second innings and displayed a strong concentration throughout. His patience was rewarded with a maiden Test hundred which helped draw the match. Usually a fluent stroke-maker, Nafis attributed the change of tactics to a vital chat with Whatmore on the third day: "He told me something very important. He said that sometimes you have to sacrifice your natural style to suit the situation. I remembered that and never thought of the runs. I just played according to the merit of the ball and tried to stay as long as possible."
Taibu, the Zimbabwe captain, had himself excelled with the bat, scoring more than 300 runs at an average above 100, although he modestly said that he was merely "satisfied" and "very happy to bat for more than 200 balls in most of the innings." But he went on to explain how disappointing it was for Zimbabwe not to bowl Bangladesh out in the second innings: "I thought in 140-odd overs, we should be able to bowl them out but full credit to them. They really stuck it out there." He wasn't perturbed by the series loss. "It's just another game," he added. "I think we improved from the first game to the second and if you look at it that way, things can only get better for us." But he was clear where Bangladesh were better than them: "I think the difference was No 1, top-order batting: their top order saw the shine off the new ball, ours didn't. Number two was the spinners: the Bangladesh spinners were more consistent."
Rabeed Imam is a sports writer for the Daily Star in Dhaka.