Mashrafe Mortaza celebrates after nailing Misbah-ul-Haq © AFP
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Bangladesh have often been accused of throwing it away all too easily, but they showed enormous determination and resolve on the third day of the first Test at Karachi. First, the bowlers grabbed Pakistan's last five wickets for just 45 runs, and then Bangladesh's batsmen - led by Habibul Bashar again - ensured that they built on the good work. By the close Bangladesh had wiped out the 58-run first-innings deficit and scored 163 for 3, a lead of 105. If Pakistan expected a romp in the park, it certainly didn't turn out that way.
Dav Whatmore's influence was obvious on a team which, so far in their international career, have shown little relish for a fight. Pakistan clearly held the upper hand when play began, but Bangladesh bowled with tremendous discipline, choking the runs and chipping away at the wickets. Then, their batsmen displayed the solidity and patience which is expected in Test cricket. Bashar (82 not out) scored his second half-century of the Test - the fourth time he has achieved this feat - while Hannan Sarkar and Rajin Saleh gave him splendid support.
As in their first innings, Bangladesh stuttered at the start, when Javed Omar was leg-before to Shoaib Akhtar for 13 (19 for 1). It very nearly became 19 for 2, when Bashar slashed at his first ball and was dropped by Yasir Hameed - the second day's hero - at third slip. Bashar started off playing plenty of risky strokes, but then settled down to bat with more responsibility. The lack of pace and bounce in the pitch helped the batsmen too.
Sarkar looked good for plenty more but played a rash sweep off Mohammad Hafeez to be trapped in front for 30 an over before tea (73 for 2). Sanwar Hossain went cheaply immediately after the break, but Saleh - playing in his first Test - showed excellent grit, temperament and technique. Especially engrossing was a confrontation with Shoaib late in the day, when Saleh was peppered with plenty of short stuff, but stood up on tiptoe to defend, or weaved out of the way. Shoaib was frustrated enough to hurl the ball at Saleh when he pushed it back to the bowler, but it did little to fluster the batsman. Saleh finished the day unbeaten on 27, but it was worth many more.
Earlier, Bangladesh's bowlers choked the runs with a sustained spell of line-and-length bowling, and then reaped the rewards as Pakistan lost quick wickets. Despite being denied a couple of plumb lbw shouts, the Bangladesh attack never eased the pressure. Mashrafe Mortaza got things rolling when he finally did win an lbw appeal, trapping Misbah-ul-Haq in front for 13 (303 for 6).
Mohammad Rafique then nailed Shoaib Akhtar and Shabbir Ahmed as the first 15 overs of the day produced just 12 runs. Though two fours in Alok Kapali's first over broke the tedium briefly, that also forced Khaled Mahmud to bring himself on, with telling effect. Mahmud's only Test wicket had come in his second Test, and after toiling 106 overs in his next six matches, he finally had something to show for his efforts. A gentle half-volley outside leg did the trick, as Danish Kaneria played too early and scooped a return catch (338 for 9). Mahmud nonchalantly tossed the ball to the umpire, but the occasion wasn't lost on his team-mates, who converged from all parts of the ground to celebrate a rare success, and the halving of his Test average to 240.
Rashid Latif survived the flurry of wickets at the other end to remain unbeaten on 54, and by close of play, was left ruminating about the prospect of chasing a sizeable fourth-innings target.