At some points on the first day in Hamilton, Tamim Iqbal looked downright ugly. He crouched a lot more than he usually does, saw the short ball closely and ducked under it. Or he jumped off the ground, to get the body behind the line of the short ball. He nearly played on twice and even when he was playing the pull or the cut shots, you could say they weren't perfectly executed. . With all of this going on, Tamim kept looking for singles and never missed a chance to hit boundaries. In the first session itself, he struck 15 fours, and it was not by just hanging back and guiding it past the wicketkeeper. He drove the ball, he timed it through square-leg and midwicket with his wrist work, or simply dropped it down when the field hung back.
It was not as fluent as his unbeaten 141 in the BPL final earlier this month. It was very different to many of his Test hundreds, especially the elegant knocks at Lord's and Manchester in 2010. This innings, which he has said was special, was more about making the runs, especially with batsmen rapidly falling at the other end.
Tamim scored 126 of Bangladesh's total of 234. At times, he played doggedly and looked like he was losing concentration. He didn't care how he looked while pulling the ball, or if his drives were picture perfect. It was just about making the runs. He wanted them badly.
It was a wicket where runs were available if batsmen were willing to ride out a good spell or the odd bad bowling. Trent Boult wasn't swinging it like he had done in the ODIs. Tim Southee did not seem threatening. Yes, Neil Wagner tested them with the bouncers and Todd Astle got the odd ball to spin back into the stumps but it was a case of the batsmen impatiently throwing away their wickets.
Tamim said that his intention was only to score runs. He didn't veer off it for the 191 minutes he was in the middle, and it gave him his ninth Test century.
"I just batted long enough, I thought," Tamim said. "I had a very clear plan. If the ball was there to hit, I would try to hit it. Luckily, I got a few boundaries early and then kept on batting the way I liked to bat. It was a very, very good wicket. It was greenish, but it didn't do too much. We should have scored lot more than what we have put on. We have ourselves to blame. If we could have batted the whole day, scored somewhere between 350-400 runs, it could have been a decent day."
Tamim said that he didn't mind ducking under the ball, and only brought out the pull shot when he judged the wind direction and sized up which side of the ground was smaller. "Every individual should have plans. I think we gave away our wicket just when we were batting well. We know for a long time that Neil Wagner will do this, but how you tackle this, depends on the individual. Some want to pull the short ball, I think ducking is a better option for me, so I kept on ducking.
"In my case, I pulled Tim with the wind and towards the smaller side. I knew that it was a better option from this end, rather than the far end.
"You have to mix and match, duck, take singles. It keeps your mind fresh. Look, the batsmen know their mistakes but we know we will come back strong," he said.
It was disappointing, he said, to give away such a sound start, especially on a pitch that was bound to get better. "We batted well in patches but we gave away the wicket in the wrong moment. We had two fifty-plus stands. I thought we handled Wagner, who is a quality bowler, really well in the first ten overs. When [Mohammad] Mithun got out, he got two more extra overs because that could have been his last over.
"It was a dream start for us in these conditions. Disappointing was not being unable to take advantage of it. We had them covered at one point but then we gave away our wickets at the wrong times," he said.
One example from his own batting illustrates that point: His caution while closing in on a hundred in the first session of a Test, potentially a high point of his career. He knew that hanging around after lunch would give him the hundred and played out the last few overs.
Not pretty, but pretty effective.