Match Analysis

Mushfiqur and Litton channel the spirit of 1959

From being five down for next to nothing, the two rescued Bangladesh in what has been a year of miracles

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Mushfiqur and Litton walk back undefeated after their double-century stand  •  AFP/Getty Images

Mushfiqur and Litton walk back undefeated after their double-century stand  •  AFP/Getty Images

Prior to Monday, you have to go as far back as 1959 to find a rescue operation in a Dhaka Test that was as backs-to-the-wall as the one that Mushfiqur Rahim and Litton Das pulled off against Sri Lanka. At the Bangabandhu National Stadium, Wallis Mathias and Shujauddin added 86 runs after Pakistan, the hosts, had slipped to 22 for 5 on the first morning against West Indies.
Pakistan's 145 and 144 was still enough for Fazal Mahmood, the fast bowling star of the era, to demolish the West Indies with a 12-wicket haul using all his crafts on Dhaka's famous matting pitch. Although the current Dhaka Test is only a day old, the big difference between the two sixth-wicket stands already is the amount of runs. Mushfiqur and Litton have put on an unbroken 253 runs for the sixth wicket. This is the first time a team has put up a 200-plus stand after losing their first five wickets for 25 runs or fewer.
There's little memory of the 1959 Test except for a Wisden report that understandably praises Mathias and Shujauddin.
Usually, a lower-order revival like this involves an underrated batter stepping up but neither Mushfiqur nor Litton fits that category. One is Bangladesh's most capped Test cricketer, who last week became the country's first batter to reach 5000 runs. The other is the form batter, scoring his third Test century in the last six months. He averages 50-plus in both Tests and ODIs during the period.
Given his current form, it seems as if Litton is batting one place too low. He is the sort of player who should be part of the engine room of a batting line-up, i.e., the middle-order. So when Bangladesh collapsed in a heap in the seventh over, the belief that this in-form duo can stem the slide wasn't really all that far-fetched.
Sri Lanka's pace duo of Asitha Fernando and Kasun Rajitha rattled Bangladesh with their accuracy. Rajitha caught Mahmudul Hasan napping with the second ball of the day, before his twin blows - Najmul Hossain Shanto and Shakib Al Hasan - reduced Bangladesh to 24 for 5. In between, Fernando removed Tamim Iqbal and Mominul Haque with deliveries that left the two left-handers befuddled.
It meant Shanto and Mominul's downturn continues. Mominul, especially, is slowly sliding into a situation where his captaincy and his form are being openly questioned. Young opener Joy getting his third duck in the last four innings has also contributed to the frustrations around this batting line-up.
The big scores from Chattogram now appear to be an anomaly. Only in their previous Test series in South Africa, Bangladesh were shot out for 53 and 80. Prior to that, right here at Shere Bangla National Stadium, Pakistan beat them in a game reduced by rain to effectively two and a half days.
Bangladesh head coach Russell Domingo however chose to look at the positives and said he has never seen a team recover so well after being put in such a difficult position.
"It is one of the best partnerships I have seen as a coach in Tests," he said. "We were 20 odd for 5. Under a lot of pressure. It was an amazing effort by those two batters. Obviously we didn't start well this morning. Couple of false shots. Couple of good deliveries. Test cricket is hard but those guys showed amazing skill and character to get us in this good position."
Mushfiqur has been the architect of many Bangladesh rescue acts. His ability to tune out everything else - especially the criticism that hounds this side - and just focus on the job at hand continues to stand out.
"Mushfiqur hits more balls than anybody I have ever seen," Domingo said. "He has amazing determination and desire to do well," he said. "I think a lot of the players want a little bit of love and support particularly when things are not going well for you. For sure, he has worked a little bit on his technique in the last couple of games, but he knows how to get runs."
Litton too is growing in stature and his coach expects him to keep going and become Bangladesh's Mr Dependable.
"I think Litton has evolved his game," Domingo said. "He has developed a very good batting technique, which is very important in international cricket. He has a found a good way to prepare for Tests in the last year and a half. Knowing when to do the work, and when not to do the work. He has developed a good routine.
"He has taken his game to the next level. I think batting lower down the order has helped him. He will definitely become Bangladesh's No 4 or 5 in time to come. At No 6 and 7, takes the pressure off him. He can play with intent and positivity."
Bangladesh have put together some amazing comebacks in 2022. They beat New Zealand in their own conditions for the first time, after a difficult period leading up to that tour. Then they beat Afghanistan in an ODI in Chattogram, literally coming back from the dead. They trounced South Africa in their own backyard. This one in Dhaka is still ongoing but that is just what makes it special. It's proof that Bangladesh are a different breed now. You can't count them out anymore. Not even when the chips are down.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84