After collapsing to 143 all out, which was largely down to some loose batting outside the off-stump, and conceding a massive first-innings lead in the process on the second day, Bangladesh seemed to make more of an effort to leave balls outside off on Monday in Sylhet. For a shot-a-minute batting pair that is reflective of the larger mindset of a batting unit still suffering from limited-overs hangover, it was a discernible change.
Liton tightening up his outside off play, in particular, must be encouraging for a Bangladesh team looking to minimise damage in a chase of 321. Liton left 10 out of the 38 balls he faced, having left just four out of 25 in the first innings.
Against the disciplined fast bowling of Kyle Jarvis and Tendai Chatara, it was the sort of batting that coach Steve Rhodes wanted to see so desperately. Even so, Liton and Imrul have done it for just 61 balls, and have all of the fourth day to negotiate with similar discipline.
Rhodes said that the remaining 295 runs, particularly with 10 wickets in hand, are attainable. “It is wonderful to get through tonight,” he said. “We have a little platform. The ball is a bit older. We have got 10 wickets in hand. The boys are happy. The captain is happy. He did a good job out there today in marshalling the troops. He said some nice things about what we need to do. We are in a positive frame of mind, but we also know we have a big challenge on our hands.
“Today, Liton [Das] and Imrul [Kayes] showed that they were very capable against two bowlers who did very well in the first innings. If you can get through those bowlers, there are definitely ways of scoring those runs. We are looking at a couple of very good partnerships. If we can achieve it, we can win the game. Chasing a score that is the highest score in the game is very difficult, but it is achievable.”
Rhodes said that the pitch doesn’t have too many demons, which may make batting easier than it is usually on the fourth day. “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.
Rhodes, however, admitted that they had misread the surface in the days leading up to the game, believing that it would turn a lot more than it did. “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, so we probably misread it slightly.”
Misreading the pitch also led to Bangladesh choosing a third spinner, leaving Abu Jayed as the lone fast bowler. Rhodes said that the line-up lost balance because of this decision, but that it was the batsmen’s performance in the first innings that put them in a difficult situation.
“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; 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.”