This was the first international fixture of 2014 in Dhaka, and I wanted to get started on the right foot. Also, the second day of the match coincided with my weekly day off from work. With all the clouds and mist shrouding Bangladesh's Test cricket future, I believed the best way to protest that was by being in the stands to watch a Test match, to let the cricketing world know that we love Test cricket just as much as other formats.
Bangladesh, far too obviously.
Kaushal Silva demonstrated what proper Test match batting was for about 70 overs on the day. The word "Kaushal" means technique in Bangla, and boy, did he display good technique! Yes, he got lucky on a few occasions but not because he played rash shots. The calm and composure he showed was exemplary, especially to his top-order counterparts.
When your team has been on the mat for most of the day, there are quite a few things you wish had happened differently. Mushy had a rare off day. Had he made the most of all the chances that came his way, things would have been brighter.
Al-Amin Hossain, the workhorse of the day for the Tigers, got one to snort past Silva and a clear edge to Mushfiqur Rahim's glove, and even after the umpires asked a walking Silva to wait while the front foot was checked, the first sideways replay of the foot showed him within the lines. But then another angle showed his back foot had knocked over a bail, turning that into a newly stipulated no-ball. Silva rode his luck, adding another added 99 runs to his tally.
Al-Amin's burst with the second new ball, where he troubled both a very set Kaushal and the vastly experienced Kumar Sangakkara. I also enjoyed the brief period after tea when Mushy gave his fast bowlers a break - the new ball was due shortly - by bowling a six-over period with his part-timers, Nasir and Mominul, who both kept it tight.
We realised we were sitting in the wrong gallery (where students were given free entry) throughout the first session, and that the one we were supposed to sit in was a lot more quiet. So we went there and took photos of ourselves on the empty seats. We took turns to wear one of our friends' hoodie that matched the colour of the seats so it looked like a planned photo shoot.
After a chanceless knock, Sangakkara finally edged one to the cordon off Al-Amin. Nasir fumbled, juggled and got his feet in a tangle, but held on to the catch on the third attempt. The second slip fielder was in anticipation of catching a rebound, and from a distance, it wasn't clear whether Nasir had eventually held on. But then he got up and kicked the ball in the air and the crowd stirred.
With not much boundary patrol in Test matches, we had the pleasure of having Shakib Al Hasan, rather unusually, on the fine-leg ropes. No exciting fielding opportunity came to him during his stint, but the crowd shouted out words of encouragement to him.
It was Sangakkara's first cover drive of the day. And then it was his second. And after a while, it got impossible to choose. Whether he stroked a dipping offbreak on off stump or punched a seamer on the back foot, I've never seen off drives this exquisite. This image of Ron Burgundy, from the film Anchorman kept coming to mind.
The numbers were not great, considering it was mid-week, but the gallery where students were given free access remained quite full, as did the Eastern Gallery. The third session saw the crowd most cheerful, with the wickets falling. But the crowd was as vibrant as any on a Test match.
Much like my countrymen on the field, I had a rough day holding on to things, dropping a cup of tea and then a glass of water, which the people in my gallery - not to mention my friends - thought was hysterical. The food on offer was the usual burgers, sandwiches, chips and soda, all of which we consumed happily.
ODIs and T20s are fast-paced, no doubt, but I've always felt Test cricket is a much more nuanced game. There's not a lot of adrenaline rush. It's a game of skills and the mind. It's not "entertainment" per say, but Test matches are fulfilling in their very own way. If ODI cricket is like a movie, a Test cricket is like a reading a book. I enjoy both.
I took three posters citing how much we love Test cricket and want our country to keep playing (because the two-tier Test system in the "Big Three" draft was still very much a concern when we walked in through the stadium gates), but the officials at the gates said we could not bring in anything like that.
It was a fun day. Though things didn't quite go our way, especially for the first two sessions, Bangladesh didn't give up. Some chances were grassed, but Nasir took two fantastic catches, Shakib showed why he is one of the best cricketers of his generation, and Sangakkara's batting was a treat. The weather remained pleasant throughout the day, and I was in good company.
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