Bangladesh does not play too often. The opportunity of playing against top ranked teams whether at home or away is few and far between. In such situation whenever the opportunity arrives Bangladeshi cricketers grab it with both hands.
In 17 years since getting test status, next door neighbor India is going host Bangladesh for a test for the first time in February. Australia hosted Bangladesh only once for two tests in minor venues at Darwin and Cairns. England, South Australia, and New Zealand also invite after a long time. In this situation, it cannot be expected that Bangladesh would prove competitive in tests against major opponents.
Bangladesh is now on a full tour in New Zealand. For many reasons the just concluded test between Bangladesh and New Zealand will go down as cricket history as a milestone-setting achievement for both countries. For almost four days Bangladesh was riding in the box seat scoring 595/9 in the first innings and gained a 56 runs first innings lead making New Zealand all out for 539. But a sudden reverse saw them getting opener Imrul Kayes retired hurt when openers were building on first innings lead. Within no time Tamim, Mahmudullah, and Miraj got out creating some worries in visitors camp. Bangladesh at 66/3 and 122 runs ahead on the fourth morning still had more than even chance of gaining a substantial lead or batting long enough for saving the test. But Kiwis by this time fairly assessed the strength and weakness of Bangladesh batting. Shakib who scored 217 in the first innings committed suicide trying blowing out Santner before setting his eyes in. His departure triggered collapse which was only hastened by the loss of patience of otherwise cool Mominul. The collapsed initiated could not be arrested even by brave Mushfique and Kayes handicapped with a serious injury. Mushfique got injured again from a short ball of Southee after braving for a long time against thunderbolts of Wagner and Southee aimed at his rib cage. He was batting with injured fingers and thumb. Shabbir played an excellent innings. But when Mushfique was taken to hospital and Kayes joined him he also lost patience throwing away his wicket. Bangladesh could reach 160 a lead of 216.
New Zealand had enough time to bat and score runs to win. Inexperienced bowling attack did not have the capacity to take 10 New Zealand wicket. When the home team had a champion batsman Kane Williamson very few team could win the match on a true wicket even on final sessions on the last day. Bangladesh lost the test by 7 wickets being the only team to do that after scoring 595 in the first innings. There are genuine reasons for feeling shocked and awed. But this is test cricket. This is played over 15 sessions over 5 days. Team dominating 12 sessions can lose playing an exceptionally bad session or two.
We must judge the achievement and failures of Bangladesh Cricket team in its true perspective. True adoring fans have reasons to feel frustrated. Most of the test playing teams would not have lost a test from that position. But Bangladesh with very little opportunity of playing cricket abroad and playing even longer version quality cricket at home could not cope with challenges that a vastly superior bowling attack on their known surface created in the second innings. Most of the players fatigued mentally and physically. Two major injuries to key players and the constant pressure of tackling short balls at pace aimed at rib cage were beyond their capacity to handle.
Bangladesh batted exceptionally well on day one and two on a green top hard wicket in windy condition. Bangladesh hardly plays on such wickets in such condition. The tone was set by Tamim aggressively counterattacking Boult, Wagner, and co with his run a ball 56.Solid Mominul played gritty innings of 64. Then Shakib and Mushfique created the history of record setting 5th wicket partnership of …….runs. Shakib went on scoring 217 the highest of a Bangladeshi, Mushfique played a classic innings of 159. Finally, Shabbir scored an unbeaten 54. Bangladesh could post a massive 595/9 by far their highest score in New Zealand and the highest of a touring team there.
Bangladesh defended with an inexperienced bowling track having two debutants Taskin and Shubahish and another two Miraj and Rabbi with two tests each. History was set opening the attack with an off-spinner Miraj. Bangladesh had to use a part-time keeper as Mushfique playing after recovering from a hamstring injury was struck on fingers and thumb while batting. Miraj, Taskin, Rabbi and Shubhashish all bowled well within their limitations. If all catches were accepted Bangladesh could gain a substantial lead.
Gains of Basin Reserve:
Brilliant batting in the first innings initiated by Tamim, developed by Mominul and consolidated by Shakib, Mushfique and Shabbir boosted the confidence of Bangladeshi batsmen in confronting any attack on challenging wicket and condition. This was one the most matured batting performance by Bangladesh when they could unsettle or rattle top bowling attack on their known surface. Two debutants Taskin and Shubhashish learned a lot how to bowl on such a wicket. Rabbi and Miraj were also benefitted a lot. But they could not bowl consistently well in the right channel for a long time. Bangladesh scored the highest first innings 595/9 of a visiting team at Basin reserve. Shakib and Mushfique set a record of partnership at any wicket against New Zealand in New Zealand. Kayes taking 5 catches behind the wicket also set a record for a stand in wicket keeper in a test.
Though relatively inexperienced Bangladesh could find a nucleus of future bowling combination for test in a fast wicket. Possibly Mustafiz, Al-Amin, and Rubel will join the group at some stage. Miraj will be remembered as the first ever spin bowler opening the attack in test in New Zealand on pace friendly wicket. He learned the value of bowling full and fighting. Mushfique and Kayes batting with injury demonstrated their love and commitment for the team and the country. This will have a long-term moral boosting impact.
For lack of experience of playing longer version competitive cricket, Bangladesh players looked fatigued and got injured. Mushfique and Kayes may miss the second test starting at Christchurch next Friday. Mustafiz is not yet matching fit. Many would think Bangladesh losing the test after playing the test so well over almost four days is a huge pain to absorb. If only Shakib and Shabbir could keep their heads down for few more overs it was well within capacity for saving the test. That would have achieved an honorable draw.
Basin Reserve second innings batting exposed the inherent weakness of Bangladeshis against short fast deliveries. If Mushfique and Kayes cannot play there would huge issue playing Kiwi attack comfortably in Hagley Park Christchurch where wicket may have more pace and bounce.
Kayes can be replaced with Soumya if he remains unfit to play. Nurul Hasan can come in for Mushfique. But that may weaken the batting. 4 tailenders cannot make any contributions. In such situation, would suggest including Taijul instead of a pacer. Taskin and Rabbi can play. Inclusion of Soumya will have additional pace bowling option. Taijul apart from his spin bowling can also bat a bit.
In case Mushfique and Kayes are not matched fit they must not be risked. Their full fitness is essential for test against India and tour in Sri Lanka
The suggested eleven may be,
Tamim, Soumya, Mominul, Mahmudullah, Shakib, Shabbir, Taijul, Nurul Hasan, Mehedi Miraj, Rubel, and Rabbi.
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