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Feature

Flawed teams with much at stake make for intriguing day's play

Both Bangladesh and West Indies had their moments in Dhaka, but neither team has pulled away just yet

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
11-Feb-2021
Abu Jayed, playing in place of Mustafizur Rahman, helped Bangladesh fight back after lunch but West Indies wouldn't go quietly  •  BCB

Abu Jayed, playing in place of Mustafizur Rahman, helped Bangladesh fight back after lunch but West Indies wouldn't go quietly  •  BCB

A run-rate of 2.47 for 90 overs hints at a dreary day of cricket but don't judge the Dhaka Test by its scoreboard right now. Imperfect teams often make the most intriguing battles and West Indies' 223 for 5 gave birth to several little stories that have the potential to merge together to form a climax befitting of a post-modern Test match.
Much of the underlying tension throughout the day was a result of the previous Test match where the visitors overturned the status quo with their come-from-behind win. This is a last-minute stitched-up West Indies side without some of their best Test batsman, and who, with a second-string ODI side, got crushed at the start of the tour.
So that's why the defeat left Bangladesh - at the very least, their cricket board, who pride themselves on their home record - quite red-faced. There have been reports of several online and in-person meetings over the last three days, suggesting a nervous time inside the home side's bubble.
Bangladesh also lost Shakib Al Hasan and opener Shadman Islam to injury during these three days. You have to replace Shakib with a specialist middle-order batsman and a specialist bowler. Bangladesh have both in their squad, but not one who does both. The selectors didn't pick a back-up allrounder in the 18-man squad, so they brought in Soumya Sarkar, who is now likely to open the batting. Mohammad Mithun and Abu Jayed were also included to replace Shadman and Mustafizur Rahman.
Despite so much happening and then West Indies deciding to bat first, Bangladesh reacted rather calmly during the first session. There was neither an overt show of enthusiasm from the fielders, nor the odd word to the batsmen in retaliation for Chattogram. The beauty of the first day was in the way both teams weighed each other's intentions, and waited for someone to blink.
And true to form, throughout the day one side or the other blinked just when they seemed to be getting on top. West Indies started well with their openers adding 66 runs, just like their coach had asked after the first Test. But the partnership ended just when John Campbell looked dangerous.
Likewise with Brathwaite, who got caught in the slips off Sarkar's dibbly-dobblers just when he was looking to consolidate on his good start. Kyle Mayers, fresh off the unbeaten match-winning 210, also got caught in the slips when he threw his bat at a slightly wide one from Jayed.
Brathwaite, Shane Moseley and Mayers were a cluster of wickets that West Indies lost just after lunch. Bangladesh may have felt that normal service at the Shere Bangla National Stadium may have resumed but Nkrumah Bonner and Jermaine Blackwood halted their momentum.
Bonner, like Mayers, is fresh off a debut performance that everyone is talking about. But unlike Mayers, Bonner continued where he left off in Chattogram. Even when Blackwood fell to a soft caught-and-bowled, he hunkered down with Joshua Da Silva for the rest of the day.
At every juncture of this day's play, either team could have run off with the advantage. But nobody is in front and nobody was left behind. Two flawed Test teams are trying to outwit each other on a potential minefield of a pitch. West Indies appear to be in front but they want more than the momentary joy of winning day one. They want to win the series. Bangladesh are hell-bent on keeping their home advantage intact and their ego well massaged. This promises to be a fascinating, if at times frayed, Test match.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84