BAN v SL (1)
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At Arnos Vale, St Vincent, July 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 2009. Bangladesh won by 95 runs. Toss: Bangladesh. Test debuts: R. A. Austin, T. M. Dowlin, N. O. Miller, O. J. Phillips, D. M. Richards, K. A. J. Roach, C. A. K. Walton; Mahmudullah, Rubel Hossain.
The circumstances of Bangladesh's second Test victory, in their 60th match since gaining Test status nine years earlier, were not dissimilar to their first, over Zimbabwe at Chittagong in January 2005. Like Zimbabwe, West Indies were severely weakened after their leading players pulled out; and Bangladesh were further favoured by a slow pitch yielding to spin that might have been in the middle of Chittagong's M. A. Aziz Stadium, rather than the Arnos Vale Playing Fields in the heart of the Caribbean.
Not since their inaugural Test, in England in 1928, had West Indies fielded so many debutants. The belated withdrawal of the 13 players originally chosen, in the latest of their contract disputes with the West Indies Cricket Board, meant frantic telephone calls by selectors seeking out those still willing, and eager, to play in spite of a directive from the Players' Association. They finally announced a squad of 15. Four came from the Combined Campuses & Colleges team based at the University of the West Indies campus in Barbados (whose principal, Sir Hilary Beckles, is a WICB director); among them was the captain, Floyd Reifer, who had played his last Test in South Africa ten years before. Also included, but eventually released to return to the annual regional Under-19 tournament, were 16- year-old opener Kraigg Brathwaite, a prolific scorer in schools and club cricket with two first-class games for Barbados behind him, and Jamaican Andre Creary, who had made his first-class debut a few days earlier for West Indies A. The home side counted 22 Tests in their starting eleven, Bangladesh 157.
Yet West Indies still held the advantage over the first three days, securing a first-innings lead of 69 that appeared crucial. Usually daunted by such an equation, Bangladesh took control once they recognised the limitations in class and experience of their makeshift opposition. The outcome was determined by the home team's weakness in spin, both bowling and batting, over the last two innings.
A maiden Test hundred from Tamim Iqbal and his second-wicket partnership of 146 with fellow left-hander Junaid Siddique were the basis of a match-winning total. And, despite a familiar collapse on the final morning, when Bangladesh's last five wickets tumbled for 18, Shakib Al Hasan, who had assumed the captaincy after a knee injury ended Mashrafe bin Mortaza's tour early on the third day, and debutant Mahmudullah exposed West Indies' incompetence against the turning ball. Only Bernard, with his second fifty in the match, was untroubled and unbeaten as Bangladesh completed a notable triumph, their first in a Test overseas, with 9.5 overs remaining.
Torrential downpours, not uncommon in the southern Caribbean at the start of the hurricane season, had restricted the first day to 18.5 overs; with further rain, only the efficient outfield drainage installed for the 2007 World Cup, when Arnos Vale was a venue for warm-up matches, prevented any more lengthy delays. When play resumed,Bangladesh never got going against disciplined bowling and fielding; it took the forthright late-order approach of Mushfiqur Rahim, Mortaza and Shahadat Hossain, who hit ten fours and three sixes between them, to raise 89 from the last three wickets.
The left-hander Omar Phillips, a second-year history undergraduate, shored up West Indies' top order for three and three-quarter hours, almost creating history himself until a loose drive to cover denied him a hundred on debut and provided another newcomer, Rubel Hossain, a 19-year-old fast bowler with a slingshot action, with the second of his three wickets. Bernard played pleasantly, Sammy attacked effectively, but West Indies' uncertainty against spin was evident as their last six wickets went for 80.
The result was all but settled by the end of the fourth day, when Bangladesh were ahead by 252. Tamim profited from chances to slip at 30, off Sammy, and to midwicket at 76, off Ryan Austin's off-spin, but was otherwise assured in becoming Bangladesh's ninth Test centurion. He struck 17 fours in five hours and 11 minutes before pulling a low catch to mid-on. Siddique was equally solid but, when he became the first of Sammy's five victims, the innings faltered. Bangladesh appeared unsure how to capitalise on their unaccustomed ascendancy, but their doubts were soon dispelled by the jittery West Indian batsmen. Dale Richards was run out in the third over, carelessly lingering out of his ground waiting for an umpiring decision on an lbw appeal, and only Bernard coped with the combination of Shakib's left-arm spin and Mahmudullah's off-breaks and straight balls.
The sprinkling of spectators, no more than a few hundred at any time, reflected the public's disenchantment with the continuing wrangling in West Indian cricket. Not that it mattered to the celebrating Bangladeshis - the eleven on the field and the millions back home watching on live television - when victory was achieved in the final hour.
Man of the Match: Tamim Iqbal.
Close of play: First day, Bangladesh 42-0 (Tamim Iqbal 14, Imrul Kayes 26); Second day, West Indies 17-1 (Phillips 0, Austin 1); Third day, Bangladesh 26-0 (Tamim Iqbal 11, Imrul Kayes 14); Fourth day, Bangladesh 321-5 (Shakib Al Hasan 26, Mushfiqur Rahim 28).