ZIMBABWE TOUR OF BANGLADESH, 2018
In Tamim Iqbal’s absence. Imrul Kayes will be crucial to Bangladesh’s chances. © AFP
Bangladesh will up against history when they resume their second essay on Day 4, needing to get 295 more from a target of 321 for a victory in the first Test against Zimbabwe. It was nine years back when they managed their highest successful chase, reaching 217 in a 215-run chase against the Windies in Grenada. But their recent record goes against them, finishing with less than 200 in seven successive Test innings.
However, having got through a tricky 10-over period before stumps on Day 3 without any damage, Bangladesh are ‘quietly confident’ in pursuit of a historic achievement, reckoned head coach Steve Rhodes who said the focus of his team was to take it session by session, and not look too far ahead.
“I think the dressing room is quietly confident. They recognise that we have to reach the highest score in the game, which doesn’t happen often. We certainly are ready for batting a bit better in the second innings. I was very pleased with Imrul and Liton for providing a bit of a platform. We have to go again tomorrow,” Rhodes told reporters on Monday (November 5)
“Today we set a task to win the game, believe it or not, by winning five sessions. The first one was bit of a draw and I felt it wasn’t a great start for us today. We won the second two. We are on the way, and the plan will be to try and win those sessions tomorrow. The good thing is, it is not a raging turner. It is not turning every ball. The odd ball turns. As long as you don’t let that worry you too much, you can certainly play against spin on that wicket,” he said
Bangladesh’s batting in Test cricket in recent times has remained a concern, with a slew of collapses pointing towards an application issue on part of the batsmen. On Sunday, following an insipid show with the bat, the hosts were skittled out for 143 to hand Zimbabwe a sizeable lead. Tedai Chatara, who had accounted for three of those wickets, believed that the Bangladesh batsmen turned up in 50-over mode which the visitors took advantage of. Rhodes agreed to an extent, mentioning that despite all the work in the nets to “eradicate the white-ball shots” the batsmen erred with their shot selection in the first innings.
“I think the form of our Test team’s batting is something we need to improve desperately. The two matches in West Indies was very difficult for Bangladesh. But in this first innings, it is on our home wicket, it was disappointing. Both Australia and England struggled in difficult conditions here. We can’t be too aggressive and nasty towards our batsmen. They are trying hard to do well. I believe they are good players. They need confidence. If you look at the way they played tonight, they showed different sort of application. If we can carry it on tomorrow, we are in for a cracking game of cricket,” said Rhodes.
“I don’t think they took the Zimbabwe bowlers lightly or were complacent. Chatara said that we were in one-day mode. We worked all week to eradicate the white-ball shots. But in the first innings, we sadly wafted at a few. We are on a learning curve. Some have played a lot of cricket, so they don’t need to be told all the time. I tried to remind them that in these sorts of wickets, you get your Test statistics high,” he said. “They know that they should have cashed in and made some big runs, but it wasn’t to be. It was a very sad performance, but they have a great chance to put it right. Through some wonderful bowling from Taijul, the other spinners and Rahi [Abu Jayed], we are in a position that it is ‘game on’.”
Meanwhile, a think-tank decision that has come back to bite Bangladesh is the inclusion of a lone pacer in Abu Jayed. Despite the presence of Mustafizur Rahman, Shafiul Islam and Khaled Ahmed in the squad, none of them were roped into the eleven as Bangladesh decided to back a three-prong spin attack on a pitch that wasn’t really of much help for the slower bowlers.
Rhodes admitted that Bangladesh misjudged the nature of the wicket. “The wicket surprised us a little bit. The ends were extremely dry leading up to the Test. The middle was little bit more together but it got drier and drier as the first day neared. We felt that there would be a lot of spin but it hasn’t happened. I believe against Sri Lanka in Chittagong, there was a similar situation when everyone thought it would spin but it didn’t. It is spinning, but infrequently. Generally you should be able to score off most deliveries. Reading wickets is not easy. Sometimes even with lots of experience, you can get it slightly wrong. We thought this wicket would turn a lot more,” he said.
“I am desperate to get a couple of quicker bowlers to play for Bangladesh. It would be great for them then to be able to go overseas and have some experience from playing here. We were desperate to do it as a side, but as it turned out, when it came to the final call, it really came down to the wicket. We felt that the best chance was to go with the one pace bowler and three spinners. It wasn’t a balanced side. It wasn’t a balanced attack. You could argue it was a 50-50 call. (But) thankfully we have taken 20 wickets. The reason we are in a slight hole is because of our first innings batting. We need to put it right,” Rhodes concluded.