Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
Bangladesh needed eight batters to deal with the first day pitch in Harare, according to their captain Mominul Haque. The visitors eventually won the Test by 220 runs against Zimbabwe, but despite an unusually long batting line-up, they still ran into trouble on the first day, slipping to 132 for 6.
Mahmudullah, batting at No 8, led the fightback with an unbeaten 150, and put up partnerships of 138 and 191 runs for the seventh and ninth wickets with Liton Das and Taskin Ahmed, respectively. Das and Ahmed both made career-best scores as Bangladesh finished on 468 in the first innings.
"After looking at the pitch, I expected it to turn on the fourth or fifth day, which is why I decided to bat first," Haque said. "We had belief that our spinners could take advantage of those conditions. It would have been difficult to make a combination in these conditions without Shakib bhai. Looking at the wicket, I thought that some of us might struggle but with a long batting line-up, we could get away from it."
Haque hailed the contributions of Mahmudullah, Das and Ahmed, saying that their efforts made batting very easy for Shadman Islam and Najmul Hossain Shanto in the second innings.
"Riyad bhai's partnership with Liton was critical as we were 132-6 at that stage. Riyad played an outstanding innings. Taskin's 75 was also important to win this Test match.
"Staying ahead in the first innings keeps you in the game for long. Shanto and Shadman played well in the second innings without pressure, which is how it should be. I think they utilised the situation very well by batting normally," he said.
The long batting line-up also meant that Bangladesh had only four frontline bowlers in the XI. This, despite Shakib being in the side and Mehidy Hasan Miraz having improved his batting. The team management's decision to drop Abu Jayed was also called into question.
Ebadat Hossain was picked in his place, despite the bowler having taken only seven wickets at an average of 90.71 in seven Tests prior to Harare. Jayed averages 35.13 in 12 Tests, and is generally considered an improved bowler in all conditions. This was the first overseas Test he missed since his debut in 2018.
"It was a flat and slow wicket, we preferred a faster bowler like Ebadat. So we decided to leave out Rahi but he is not out for good," Haque said, while also explaining that they had a hard time dislodging the Zimbabwe batters in the match because the pitch was flat and slow from the second day.
"The wicket has been flat since the second day of this Test. We would have leaked runs if we went too hard for wickets. I had to contain the runs and we needed time to bowl them out. More runs would have helped them, not us. One has to take a bit of time to set up batsmen to get them out. I think the bowlers did very well," he said.
Still, it was a welcome win for Bangladesh after losing three of the four Tests this year. Haque said that it would help them to build up towards the second cycle of the World Test Championship, which for Bangladesh begins after the T20 World Cup.
"This Test win will build confidence in everyone ahead of the World Test Championship. They would know their role better. We are trying to i
mprove small processes, rather than plan big."