Bangladesh batters bloom on better pitch, but questions remain
Coach Domingo says players coming through the domestic system aren't quite ready for international cricket
Bangladesh's batters might be looking for ways to transfer the Chattogram pitch back to Mirpur, the venue of the second Test. The highway between the two is great these days. There is also a river cargo route. Of course, the bowlers wouldn't necessarily help out in the shipping process, but at a time of low confidence in the team, the pitch for the first Test against Pakistan came as a breath of fresh air for the home side.
That said, despite a pitch that had more runs in it, Bangladesh didn't have a lot of batters stepping up. Only Liton Das and Mushfiqur Rahim made runs in both innings, while Yasir Ali started well in the second innings before his concussion blow. The top order collapsed twice, including captain Mominul Haque, a Chattogram giant. It cost them the Test match, but after more than four months of a batting drought, which included a period when they didn't score a half-century or put together a 50-run stand for four weeks, Chattogram gave the batters some relief.
Bangladesh is one of the few cricket teams that consistently ends up playing in bowling-friendly conditions both at home and abroad. When they travel, they are naturally enough presented with green-tinged and pacy pitches where feasible. Since 2016, their home strategy, particularly in Mirpur, has been to aid the spinners. It has backfired as often as it has worked, since the Bangladesh batters themselves struggle on these pitches.
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Mominul said that he preferred the kind of pitch they got at Chattogram, but that Bangladesh's fast bowlers needed to become more skilful to bowl on these surfaces.
"I prefer this type of wicket," Mominul said. "It was totally flat. It was good for batting. But of course, it was tough for the pace bowlers. I think they need to know how to bowl on a flat wicket. I think the coaches can also explain this better. It is different bowling at home compared to overseas conditions. Our fast bowlers have to play a lot of four-day matches.
"This wasn't a spin wicket. It was a flat wicket. In a spin wicket, the ball turns from the third or fourth day. At least four or five balls turn on a spin wicket. Here one or two balls were turning."
Coach Russell Domingo had said on Tuesday that Bangladesh missed a trick on this pitch by not getting a bigger score in the second innings.
"I think this has been a really good wicket," Domingo said. "We let ourselves down in the second innings. A score around 250-280 would have put us in a great position. I think we play really good Test cricket when we have been on top of the game. I keep telling my coaches [in the support staff] that Bangladesh is in a very difficult situation. When we play on good wickets, we might not have the firepower to bowl sides out, like Pakistan might have. When we play on wickets that spin, we definitely have the firepower to bowl sides out but then our batsmen can be challenged as well. If you want to develop confidence in our batting line-up, you have to get our batting numbers up. It is a tough situation. Bangladesh seamers struggle historically on good wickets. Our batters seem to struggle on spin wickets."
Domingo believes that most Bangladesh cricketers have to enter the senior side with some readiness, but domestic cricket doesn't quite prepare them for the international stage.
"There's some exciting young players coming through but they are long way off where they need to be as international batsmen and bowlers," he said. "The more cricket they play at the domestic level or A-team tours, the better it will be for the national side. Right now, the step up from domestic to international cricket is a massive step. It is something BCB needs to look at to make sure they impact the game and not take a long time to find their feet."
"When we play on good wickets, we might not have the firepower to bowl sides out... When we play on wickets that spin, we definitely have the firepower to bowl sides out but then our batsmen can be challenged as well."Russell Domingo
Taijul Islam's bowling and Liton's batting were some of the few bright spots for Bangladesh in what was eventually an eight-wicket defeat, particularly in the way Liton bounced back after an ordinary T20 World Cup campaign. Domingo predicted that Liton's progress as a Test batter could see him get a promotion soon.
"Liton has been averaging close to 60 in the last 18 months. He has played some really good innings for us in the middle. We found a good spot for him at No. 6 or 7, which allows him to bat with the lower order and get the confidence going. We know he is a fantastic player. It took him a while to find his way in Test cricket. Over the last year, he has been a big positive for us in Tests. Maybe in another year's time, he can be the new No. 4 or 5 for Bangladesh."
Mominul, meanwhile, applauded Taijul's bowling effort when he took 7 for 116 in the first innings to give Bangladesh a first-innings lead - which had seemed improbable when Pakistan's openers put on 146.
"I think one of our biggest gains from this game was Taijul's bowling. He took eight wickets on this pitch, which is a lot of hard work. I think he has improved a lot and certainly he inspires everyone. It was due to Taijul that we took the lead."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84