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Match Analysis

Debutant Zakir Hasan seizes his chance after years of domestic toil

"I was trying to follow the way I bat in first-class cricket. I didn't want to think this is a big Test match"

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
A century on Test debut against India has capped a remarkable three weeks for Zakir Hasan. He displayed impressive strokeplay and sound temperament as he staved off India's attack in Chattogram. He manipulated the field well, driving the ball effectively off the front foot while also being steady off the back foot.
With his debut hundred, he moved ahead of the other openers in the reckoning. Once Tamim Iqbal returns from injury, the team management will have to choose between Zakir and Mahmudul Hasan Joy, who was the incumbent opener since November last year. Shanto will probably move back to No. 3 in that case. Meanwhile, Shadman Islam and Saif Hassan are now out of favour.
Around late November, though, Zakir wasn't even in the picture, despite being the highest run-getter in this season's National Cricket League, Bangladesh's premier first-class competition. Zakir only made it to the Bangladesh A side after Towhid Hridoy's groin injury ruled him out of the first unofficial Test against India A.
Zakir made a duck in the first innings but with the home side needing to survive the last five sessions of the four-day game, he responded with a ten-hour marathon. His 173, which included 16 fours and three sixes, steered Bangladesh to safety.
It was a performance that forced the selectors to take notice of him. He had stood up against Navdeep Saini, Mukesh Kumar and Saurabh Kumar whose left-arm spin was vital to India A dismissing Bangladesh A for 112 in the first innings.
"That innings provided me with a lot of confidence," Zakir said at the end of the fourth day's play in Chattogram. "I was trying to follow the same process of that innings. It was in the back of the mind that I must stick to the process when playing the innings. A big score leading into a national call-up is certainly a turning point."
Zakir then brought his Bangladesh A form into Test cricket. After having been watchful against seamers Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Siraj on the third evening and fourth morning, he appeared more comfortable against India's spin trio. He took Kuldeep Yadav and Axar Patel for three fours each and R Ashwin for five. He also showed he can build partnerships, which allowed Shanto bat fluently at the other end. However, after Shanto got out, he adopted a more conservative approach.
"I was trying to follow the way I bat in first-class cricket," Zakir said." I didn't want to think this is a big Test match. I tried to be as simple as possible. It was the same when I was in the nineties. I tried to follow the preparation and concentration when I bat in the nineties in first-class cricket. I was trying to follow it every ball.
"It felt good reaching the hundred. I didn't have much expectations. I wanted to bat long, since we are facing two days and a big total."
Zakir said that his vast domestic experience helped him deal with the pressures of Test cricket. Zakir's first Test was his 70th first-class game - only Mohammad Mithun, Nazimuddin and Ariful Haque have played more first-class games in Bangladesh before playing Test cricket. Zakir isn't a regular opener, but his experience of facing the new ball regularly at No.3 at Sylhet and South Zone helped him settle at the top.
"I have usually batted at No 3 and 4," Zakir said. "I haven't opened the batting much. I usually face the new ball in first-class cricket. At times you get to bat after the first ball if you are at No 3, so you have to face the new ball. I was confident.
"The Dukes ball swung for almost 80 overs in this season's conditions. Kookaburra usually swings for less time so I think it was slightly easier for me. I think I held on to my temperament because I played so much first-class cricket. I have a number of big innings in that format. I think I knew my process about scoring runs quite well."
Zakir is only 24, but has already experienced several highs and lows. A strong start to his domestic career propelled him into the Bangladesh T20I side, but after a solitary appearance, he was sent back to the grind. Zakir rebuilt himself in the last two years, however, averaging 54.63 over six tournaments. His conversion rate is particularly impressive: he scored eight centuries and two fifties.
Zakir, though, has a quiet presence in Bangladesh cricket. He hails from Sylhet, a region that is no longer known for its batting prowess. Fast bowlers Abu Jayed, Ebadot Hossain and Khaled Ahmed have recently broken into the national side from Sylhet. Zakir's success, however, is a triumph for domestic cricket. He seized his chance and broke the door down.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84