India had to fight to chip away at Bangladesh’s batting order in Hyderabad on Saturday, but they continued to march towards victory on the third day of the one-off Test match between these two teams. Bangladesh began the day on 41 for one, desperately needing to still be batting in their first innings to keep their hopes of salvaging a draw alive. They succeeded in doing just that, finishing the day on 322 for six. They are still 365 runs behind India but in with a chance of getting something out of this game.
Throughout this long succession of Tests at home the majority of the damage that has been wrought on India’s opponents has been done by their spinners. Since the start of the New Zealand series, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have taken 95 wickets at an average of 24.69. All the other bowlers have managed 54 wickets at an average of 35.96. It was understandable that when this Bangladesh innings got underway that the expectation was that the spinners would do the damage.
Virat Kohli saw it differently, opening with his seamers and persisting with them for the majority of the opening exchanges. That allowed Umesh Yadav to put together one of his more impressive spells in Test cricket. Having already picked up the wicket of Soumya Sarkar on the evening of day two, he began the third day in a similar vein. By far the quickest of the Indian seamers, Yadav regularly defeated the Bangladesh batsmen for pace on this placid surface.
For as long as Yadav has been playing Test cricket, and he made his debut nearly six years ago, he has been the fast bowling hope for India. A man who can generate 90mph pace and get late movement, if anyone is going to lead the pace attack at home and away it should be Yadav. The issue has been one of consistency, both in terms of form and in his line and length. All too often Yadav has been wayward and hasn’t taken full advantage of his natural attributes. In recent times he has been more impressive. Saturday was among his best.
Bangladesh were extremely poor in the first session, a terrible run-out saw them lose their first wicket of the day, with Tamim Iqbal stranded due to indecision on whether to take a second with Mominul Haque. Things did not improve from there as Yadav picked up his second wicket when he trapped Mominul LBW with an absolute beauty that swung into the left-hander.
The third wicket to fall in the morning session was claimed by Ishant Sharma who had been a peripheral figure in the innings up to that point. He was given the new ball ahead of Yadav, and had not really rewarded Kohli’s confidence in his early overs. He managed to elicit some reverse swing when he was brought back into the attack. Another inswinger struck Mahmadullah on the pads to dismiss him LBW. The batsman was convinced it was too high and reviewed, but the umpire had it right.
That brought together Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim. Between them they made the first significant partnership of the Bangladesh innings. Their stand of 107 reversed the rapid decline of the morning session.
When the best all-rounders in the world are being discussed, Shakib rarely gets a mention. This is very unfair on Bangladesh’s greatest ever cricketer. He averages 40 with the bat and just 32 with the ball. Not only is he his country’s leading Test wicket-taker, he is second on the all-time run-scorers list, just 172 runs behind Tamim. He could conceivably finish his career as the best run-maker and best wicket-taker for Bangladesh.
The problem with Shakib is that he is prone to lapses in concentration when batting that can let him down. One of the best examples of this was during the recent Test series against New Zealand. Shakib had made 217 in the first innings as Bangladesh made 595 all out. In the second innings Bangladesh were in trouble at 66 for three and in need of a sensible batting on the final day to secure a draw. Shakib played an outrageous shot off Mitchell Santner to lose his wicket for a five-ball duck. His dismissal proceeded a terrible collapse that lost Bangladesh the game.
It is important not to be too critical of a batsman playing an attacking shot, after all that is how you score runs, but Shakib does have a nasty habit of playing the wrong shot at exactly the wrong time. On Saturday, he had made his way to a belligerent 82 when he tried to hit Ashwin over the top and was caught at mid-on. Just as his partnership with Mushfiqur was becoming telling, it was broken. It was a legitimate tactic to attack Ashwin to prevent him from settling, but it looked really ugly.
There was a chance that Bangladesh would collapse at the fall of Shakib’s wicket, but Mushfiqur held things together with his solid innings of 81 not out from 206 balls. The biggest danger he faced while he was at the crease appeared to be when running between the wickets, which continued to by harum-scarum throughout the day.
Mushfiqur was well supported by 19-year-old Mehedi Hasan who made a career best 51 not out batting at number eight. Between them they took the score beyond 300 as Bangladesh reduced the chances of India enforcing the follow on by batting for 104 overs so far. It could be that having been in the field for so long India will want to bat again briefly which will take more time out of the game.
India did not have things all their own way, but they stuck at the task and Kohli did a decent job at rotating his bowlers and keeping attacking fields in place. It was as much about sticking to their task as it was about individual brilliance. They have done that and will be very confident of wrapping up victory over the next two days.