For Mohammad Ashraful ecstacy at mid-day turned to agony at sundown. "I'm very disappointed that I could not save my team from the follow-on," he said. Ashraful was talking to the press after rattling up a Bangladesh-best 158 not out on the third day of the Chittagong Test against India. "My intention was to keep the strike but I had forgotten to remind Nazmul [Hossain] to go for the run," he admitted, speaking of the fatal single that terminated the Bangladesh first innings on 333.
But Ashraful could not replicate his first-innings success when Bangladesh were asked to follow on, still 207 runs adrift of India's total. "I always seem to get out cheaply in the second innings after performing well in the first," said Ashraful. "It's been a problem for me: I have to sort it out."
With experience, there's every chance Ashraful will sort out these problems. Before the start of this Test he had sought out Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, asking what he needed to do to become a better batsman. "They had advised me to play my natural game and that is what I did," he said. "On previous occasions, I was under a bit of pressure; following my debut hundred there was always expectations that I would get a hundred in every match. But nowadays I'm a bit more mature in that respect."
Irfan Pathan, the other stand-out performer of the day, was full of praise for Ashraful. "He batted superbly, actually," said Pathan. "He is a very good player; I think the whole Bangladesh team played very well in the first innings."
But, for Pathan, his second innings 5 for 32 was not the highlight of the day. He bent his back in the first innings, but the wickets didn't simply stack themselves up. Pathan learned a valuable lesson in the process. "Sometimes you bowl well and don't get wickets; sometimes you don't bowl well and you get wickets," he said. "In the second innings I was just more relaxed and was trying to bowl in the right areas, not waiting for the result. Sometimes when you try too hard, that is when the pressure comes and you don't bowl well. That's what happened in the morning."
It could not have been easy for Pathan to walk right back to the top of his mark in the second innings, after bowling 23 overs on a hot morning, and continue probing for wickets after India had enforced the follow-on. "I was feeling like I could go on," said Pathan. "The ball was moving a bit; every time you see the ball is moving and something is happening, you feel good in the body and mind. You always want to go on with a long spell. It's a good feeling to get three five-wicket hauls in two matches."
For two young cricketers, it was a day to remember, but you can't help wishing things had ended better for Ashraful after the spectacular assault he launched on the Indians for most of the day.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo.