Despite some doughty resistance from Bangladesh, India are heading towards yet another win in their epic home season of Test cricket. They bowled Bangladesh out for 388 to give themselves a first innings lead of 299. A brief spell of batting left them with four sessions in which to bowl themselves to victory. It was a task that they took to with application in the evening session, claiming three wickets, but looking capable of taking many more.
Bangladesh’s hopes in this Test were all about taking as much time out of the match as possible to claim a draw. They needed to bat for as long as they could for two reasons. One was to prolong their own innings, the other to ensure that the number of overs that India spent in the field meant that they would not enforce the follow-on. Thanks to a brilliant innings of 127 from Mushfiqur Rahim, they managed both.
Bangladesh lost Mehedi Hasan in the very first over, but Mushfiqur batted brilliantly with the tail to extend the innings until 10 minutes before the lunch break. They had taken a whole session out of the match and also made India bat again. Mushfiqur was happy to continue the patient approach that had brought him so much success on Day 3, but once he was batting with numbers 10 and 11, he looked to increase his scoring rate, especially once he had passed his century.
What Mushfiqur showed his teammates, and the opposition, is that this is still a very decent batting surface. The odd ball has kept low, but other than a few brief spells where the seamers got the ball to reverse, the pitch has been relatively placid.
Umesh Yadav impressed again, and he will bowl far worse in the future and end up with better figures than the 3 for 84 he managed in the first Bangladesh innings.
Ravichandran Ashwin will play a big part in this game in the second innings, and he already has two wickets in Bangladesh’s second dig, but he wasn’t at his best in the first essay. He finished with 2 for 98, and in the process he became the fastest bowler to 250 wickets in Test cricket. He will no doubt find the Australian batting order to his liking when the series against them gets under way later this month. It may not be too long before he is the fastest to 300 Test wickets. He has 10 matches to beat Dennis Lillee’s record.
India came out to bat after lunch and were positive but not overly aggressive at first, with them losing both openers early on they were slowed up somewhat. That changed when Kohli decided to go after Shakib Al Hasan. First he hit him for a six and then three balls later he attempted to hit him over the top again and was caught at mid-wicket.
While losing the openers held them up, Kohli’s departure did not slow India down as they pushed to score as quickly as they could towards their second declaration of the match. Cheteshwar Pujara confounded some of the slow-scoring reputation that he has gained over the years, making 50 at almost a run a ball.
There will be some that will be critical of India’s decision to bat again, but it made sense. It gave the bowlers some much needed rest, and the 29 overs that they batted shouldn’t make too much of a difference. India gave Bangladesh 125 overs to face, that should be more than enough. If India can’t take 10 wickets in that time, it is questionable another 29 overs combined with tired bowlers would have fared much better. The follow-on is one of those things that is always better in theory than it ever is in practice. India still have a huge amount of cricket left to play this season, and their bowlers are too precious a resource to pummel needlessly.
India played with a fair amount of attacking intent throughout the fourth day with bat and ball. Virat Kohli kept attacking fields in place even as Mushfiqur was scoring freely and then they scored at nearly six an over when they batted for a second time. There were times on their tour of the West Indies that India had the chances to be truly ruthless and did not take them. They still won that series, but against tougher opposition that could cost them. Since then Kohli’s team, under Anil Kumble’s supervision, have put aside the more prosaic instincts that characterised MS Dhoni’s time in charge. Now the only option that they consider is the win.
This pitch is still pretty batting friendly, and there is a slim chance for Bangladesh to bat this out for a draw, but realistically the result will be an Indian win. India have seven wickets to get, and they should manage that during the 90 overs of play on Monday.
A draw would be a superb result for Bangladesh, but even if they do lose this match on the final day, this has been a very creditable performance against the best team in the world in their backyard. Teams that have a much more storied history in Test cricket have come to India and been absolutely battered. England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand have all toured India and lost in recent years. Few would have expected Bangladesh to take this game into the fifth day. There is no shame in losing to this India team, making them work hard for victory is impressive.