Mushfiqur, Mehedi frustrate India with dogged stand

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Mushfiqur Rahim (above) combined with Mehedi Hasan to keep Indian bowlers at bay for the last 30.5 overs of the day © BCCI

Three days into their historic one-off Test in India, Bangladesh’s propsect of avoiding defeat has largely remained the same. However, fifties from Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan and Mehedi Hasan displayed the kind of doggedness this contest deserved, preventing India from running away with the contest. Mushfiqur and Shakib shared a 107-run stand for the fifth wicket before 19-year-old Mehedi batted out the remainder of the day with his captain to keep a frustrated India at bay.

India still lead by 365 at stumps but with the wicket showing no discernible level of detiorartion, their task of having to take 14 wickets in the two remaining days of the Test will not be as straightforward as originally envisioned. Most importantly, from a Bangladeshi point of view, Mushfiqur and Mehedi provided a template they could carry forward for the remainder of the match, as they look to save the game.

What Mushfiqur, Miraz, Shakib and Mehedi were able to achieve successfuly was make India toil for their wickets. When Mahmudullah was dismissed a little before the interval, there were genuine fears of the worst from Bangladesh. Fresh from his heroics at the Basin Reserve, Mushfiqur battled cramps and a stinging blow to the finger in the final over of the day to register the highest score by a visiting captain of a team playing its first Test in India. His efforts forced India’s bowlers to summon their very best efforts on an unresponsive surface to effect a breakthrough.

While his captaincy, keeping and even running between the wickets may earn disapproval from the cricketing purists, Mushfiqur remains, without a doubt, Bangladesh’s most dependable batsman. It was on display in Wellington and it certainly was here once more. Shakib did as Shakib does. He counter-attacked his way out of trouble before throwing it away when a Test hundred was there for the taking while Mehedi belied his age and his diminutive frame to surprise India in the final session.

But it was India that started brighter on the day, with Umesh Yadav holding the spotlight on to himself. The morning session, in which India picked up three wickets, was sullied only by their wastage of the two alloted reviews. But Umesh’s nine-over burst, split by a change of ends, was an exhiliartating experience of reverse swing bowling. He was fast, accurate, relentless and was unlucky to have only a solitary wicket to show for his efforts in the morning. Shakib, in particular, did well to survive even as ball after ball zipped past his outside edge.

The pacer’s first act of the day, however, came from the outfield when he flung a smart throw from deep square-leg to the non-striker’s end where Bhuvneshwar Kumar was able to run Tamim Iqbal, with the latter stranded mid-pitch after a massive mix-up with Mominul Haque. Haque, looking to atone for his error, then found himself in the unenvied path of a rampaging Umesh, who was now getting the ball to snake around appreciably. One such full delivery, full and fast, beat his attempted forward defence and caught him plumb in front of the stumps.

Bhuvneshwar, too pinged Mahmudullah with an inducker forcing Kohli into a review. Umpire’s call denied them the breakthrough. But the action continued from the other end where Shakib either picked up a four past the attacking ring of fielders on the off or was beaten all ends up. The slip cordon was reinforced and a forward short leg was introduced but with an equally tetchy Mahmudullah for company, Shakib added 45. The wicket came after Umesh was done with his nine-over burst for 30 runs. But he had done enough to soften up the batsman, allowing Ishant Sharma to come in and get Mahmudullah straight away. R Ashwin found little turn upon introduction but wasted his review on a delivery that hit Shakib above the knee roll.

After losing three for 84 in the first session, Bangladesh fought back through their senior pros. Boundaries flew at the start of the second session, with the break giving Shakib more clarity of thought. Bhuvneshwar conceded four boundaries in his three-over spell and his replacement Ravichandran Ashwin was attacked by a clever use of the feet. In a frenetic first hour after Lunch, Bangladesh added 74 runs in 13 overs at nearly six runs to the over with Shakib getting to his half-century.

But because his methods were fraught with risk, one such foray down the wicket to Ashwin resulted in Shakib’s down fall – a miscue cutting short his entertaining 103-ball innings 18 short of a hundred. The spinners found little purchase, save an odd ball from Jadeja that misbehaved but the accurate left-arm spinner still managed to dislodge Sabbir Rahman after a missed sweep.

With young Mehedi showing pluck, Mushfiqur decided to shut shop. The extra pace on second new ball eventually allowed him to end a sequence of 65 deliveries without a boundary as he completed his half-century. Kohli shuffled all his bowlers around in hope but a cramping Mushfiqur and his dutiful understudy played out a perfect session, adding 76 in the final session without losing a wicket.

Brief Scores:India 687/6 decl. (Virat Kohli 204, Murali Vijay 108, Wriddhiman Saha 106*; Taijul Islam 3-156) lead Bangladesh 322/6 (Mushfiqur Rahim 81*, Shakib Al Hasan 82; Umesh Yadav 2-72) by 365 runs

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