Distinctly mixed fortunes

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Double the fun: Rahim becomes first keeper to hit two double centuries in Tests (Collected)

Bangladesh’s cricketers remained busy swinging between extremes - from biting the dust to setting new milestones - in a 2-Test series against touring Zimbabwe, even as they did not prove immune to the political vibe sweeping the country with the announcement of the 11th parliamentary election’s schedule. ODI captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, ending months of speculation, purchased nomination papers from the Awami League to contest the polls from his home district of Narail, and is overwhelmingly favoured to clinch the ruling party’s nod.

On the field, the most remarkable record was set by former captain and the diminutive Mushfiqur Rahim during the ongoing second and final Test with his unbeaten double-hundred [219] in the first innings against Zimbabwe at Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium on November 6.

With that, Mushfiq became the first wicketkeeper to score two double-hundreds in Test history, as well as the first Bangladeshi to achieve the feat. That may raise a few eyebrows among fans of Kumar Sangakkara in particular, the Sri Lankan being second only to Bradman on the double hundreds list with no fewer than 11. The rub lies in the fact that except his first, all the other double hundreds in the career of the man they call Sanga were scored while playing as a specialist batsman. Although Mushy has flirted with the idea, his best still seems to come out when he is involved in a game to the hilt, and that includes donning the gloves behind the wicket.

It was a diligent knock with minimum risk – one that also helped him record the longest innings by a Bangladesh batsman, carrying his side from 26/3 to 522/7-d.

When the declaration came, he had also regained highest scorer leadership in the charts for the most runs in a single Test innings for Bangladesh. He hit 200 against Sri Lanka in 2013, but was overtaken by Tamim Iqbal [206] in 2015, and then by Shakib Al Hasan [217] in 2017.

In his immediate reaction, Mushfiq said,”Tamim and Shakib have also scored double-hundreds so now we know that there’s a way for us to score big. Definitely, I wanted to go back to where I was, it was in the back of my mind. It is a healthy competition, which is beneficial for the team.”

In absence of Shakib and Tamim, Bangladesh needed their other key batsmen to go on big, and Mushfiq did the diligent knock without playing some of his favourite shots to minimise risk.

“I never took undue risk which was significant for me. I had a big innings without playing some of my favourite shots,” said Mushfiq.

Among other senior players, Mominul Haque [161] carried the special responsibility with the bat in the first innings to make sure of getting a big one alongside setting up Bangladesh’s best fourth-wicket partnership of 266, off 74.3 overs with Mushfiq.

Bangladesh captain Mahmudullah Riyad [101*] took charge in the 2nd innings with his second Test ton, which meant Zimbabwe would have to scale a record themselves, that of the highest total in the 4th innings of a Test, to win the match. As Dhaka Courier went to press this week, this looked distinctly unlikely (71/2 at stumps on Day 4). The series thus looked headed for a draw.

With the ball, left-handed spinner Taijul Islam thrived throughout the series for a pretty incredible haul - 16 wickets in three bowling innings – 5/107 in the first innings of the second Test following up on 11-for 170 [6/108 and 5/62] in the Sylhet Test, where he was pretty much the lone in an otherwise horrible performance from Bangladesh, resulting in Zimbabwe’s first away win in 17 years. He became only the third Bangladesh bowler to pick up five-fors in three successive innings after Enamul Haque Jr and superstar Shakib al Hasan, all left-arm orthodox spinners. 

He has already bowled a lot of overs too - 39.3 and 28.4 in the first Test, 40.3 in the first innings and 13 overs in the second innings now. “Due to the absence of Shakib bhai, I’m getting more chances to bowl. If he was in the team, there would not be the same type of additional responsibility on me. But I am really enjoying it,” said Taijul after the third day of the Dhaka Test.

Having added to his haul from Zimbabwe’s overnight total, Taijul entered the last day of the series needing three more in Zimbabwe’s second innings to go past young spin all-rounder Mehedi Hasan Miraz’s 19 against England in 2016 to become Bangladesh’s highest wicket-taker in a two-Test series.

The 26-year-old from Natore needs six to go past the recently retired gold standard of left-arm spinners, Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath, to have the overall record for two-Test series. If he does that, he will also become the first Bangladeshi bowler to bag four consecutive five-fors in Tests.

Taijul, who started the second Test with 80 wickets from 20 matches, said, “It’s really a matter of joy for every cricketer when he delivers good performance. But the team comes first.” 

Amen to that.

  • Distinctly mixed fortunes
  • Issue 19
  • Mohammad Wahid Ullah Bakul
  • Vol 35
  • DhakaCourier

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