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Match Analysis

Mahmudul Hasan Joy - perhaps the solution to one of Bangladesh cricket's biggest problems

The opener's 137 in Durban was an exercise in patience, sticking to the plan, and great mental strength

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Mahmudul Hasan Joy punches on the up, South Africa vs Bangladesh, 1st Test, Durban, April 1, 2022

Mahmudul Hasan Joy batted for almost seven-and-a-half hours at Kingsmead, blunting the South Africa attack  •  AFP/Getty Images

Mahmudul Hasan Joy was born in Chandpur on November 13, 2000, the same day Bangladesh crashed to 91 all out and lost their inaugural Test in Dhaka, some 115 kilometres away to the north.
It was an uplifting time, Bangladesh had just become the ICC's tenth Full Member. But the cricket team has had to evolve considerably over the years, in fits and starts, and has taken a long time to compete with the higher-ranked teams. So, when 21 years on, Mahmudul dominated South Africa in Durban, it was a giant leap forward, especially for Bangladesh batting.
The 137 was Mahmudul's second significant knock for Bangladesh. After his 78 in Mount Maunganui blunted the New Zealand attack for close to five hours. Then, it allowed Bangladesh to bat big, and keep New Zealand under their thumb for the rest of the game. He missed the rest of the Test series because of a finger injury, so this effort at Kingsmead was his next Test innings.
Mahmudul picked up where he had left off in Mount Maunganui, batting time, letting plenty of balls go, and forcing the bowlers to bowl to him. He was the last man out with Bangladesh on 298, having batted for seven hours and 22 minutes this time. There was not one phase of the innings when he didn't play according to the situation or the team's blueprint. Not many batters could really give him the necessary support, but Mahmudul kept his part of the bargain.
"We are really proud of the way he batted. Batting through the whole innings is special for Bangladesh. I am not sure there have been many better innings for Bangladesh in Test cricket"
Jamie Siddons
The TV commentators talked about how he had changed tactics on the third morning by attacking Simon Harmer, South Africa's best bowler on the second day. Despite being an opener, Mahmudul farmed the strike smartly with the tail. And his attack on Wiaan Mulder at the end added priceless runs for Bangladesh, who only conceded a 69-run first-innings lead. What went somewhat under the radar was how Mahmudul soaked up the pressure when Najmul Hossain Shanto got stuck at one end against Harmer for a long period during their 55-run stand for the second wicket.
Those were all impressive performances at different phases of the game. Other young Bangladesh openers, over the years, have shown little stomach for a fight in any of those junctures, let alone four or five of them. Mahmudul looks like he is made quite differently.
There will, of course, always be an asterisk next to this show, since South African are without their top bowlers. But Mahmudul is playing his first Test in South Africa, and that's important to note.
"Things might have fallen into place for him with the spinners having to bowl most of the afternoon yesterday," Jamie Siddons, Bangladesh's batting coach, said afterwards. "There was only ten overs of new-ball bowling. But you rarely see his levels of patience from our batsmen. There's always some loose batting. Although in this innings, the batsmen didn't play a bad shot to get out. It was all really good bowling and one bad run-out. Everyone was patient and played to their strength.
"Mahmudul manipulated the field quite well. He hit over the top when the field was up. When they put a fielder back, he knocked it for one. He believed he could bat for six hours. All the young players have self-belief. We just need bigger scores more often from them."
Having arrived in Bangladesh only in early February this year, Siddons hasn't seen much of Mahmudul apart from a few knocks in the BPL and net sessions in Gary Kirsten's cricket academy in Cape Town ahead of this Test series.
"I am only here for two months, and he is one of the boys who really caught my eye in terms of talent, work ethic and patience when he bats - the dedication to working on his game," Siddons said. "I think it is only his second [third] Test, so no one really knows a lot about him, unless you've been watching Bangladesh's domestic cricket.
"Today's innings was one of patience and a great game plan. He stuck to what he knows. He didn't try to play any expansive shots that weren't in his repertoire. We are really proud of the way he batted. Batting through the whole innings is special for Bangladesh. I am not sure there have been many better innings for Bangladesh in Test cricket."
The first glimpse of Mahmudul's mental strength was during his match-winning century against New Zealand in the 2020 Under-19 World Cup semi-final, in South Africa. It was the first time Bangladesh had reached the tournament final, which they went on to win. Test captain Mominul Haque said a couple of months back that the 78 against New Zealand suggested Bangladesh had a "superstar" in their midst.
If you have followed Bangladesh's cricket in recent years, Mominul's hyperbole wouldn't seem out of place. Finding an opening partner for Tamim Iqbal has been a long-drawn search, and the right result has never really come. Of late, Tamim's absence has given the likes of Mohammad Naim, Shadman Islam and Saif Hassan opportunities, but none of them could grab those like Mahmudul has. If he can stay the course, he could well be the answer to one of the Bangladesh team's biggest problems.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84