Pakistan strike after setting 550 target


Pakistan declined the follow-on after Wahab Riaz had helped bust open the Bangladesh tail in the first session, but continued to hurtle the match ahead nevertheless, as Misbah-ul-Haq mauled 82 from 72 balls to set up a second declaration, and Yasir Shah’s legspin proved menacing on a wearing Mirpur deck. Yasir bowled Imrul Kayes through the gate in the closing overs of the day to leave Bangladesh 487 runs behind, with nine wickets in hand and two full days to bat.

Bangladesh’s dire position in the game was brightened briefly in the morning by a Shakib Al Hasan onslaught, and early in the second innings by an encouraging spell from Mohammad Shahid. Shakib cracked an unbeaten 89 from 91 balls – with most of those runs coming in what would become the last-wicket stand. Shahid had both Pakistan openers nicking off either side of lunch, in an earnest, probing spell.

Misbah, in his thrilling, but rarely-seen explosive avatar cudgelled all comers after tea, flitting down the pitch to launch spinners into the stands, hacking and cutting at the pace of Mohammad Shahid, and on occasion, getting low to slog balls over cow corner or reverse sweep to beat the spread field. A 21-run Taijul Islam over, in which he hit two fours and two sixes was the highlight of the day. He hit nine fours and three sixes in all to propel Pakistan to 195 for 6. The declaration came at his demise to the offspin of Mahmudullah.

Pakistan’s second innings, spread over 41.1 overs, was also pushed along by Azhar Ali, who hit 25, and Younis Khan, who contributed 39 from 51 balls, in the process surpassing Vivian Richards’ Test run tally of 8,540. Sarfraz Ahmed also made a quickfire 18 after the Bangladesh spinners had wheedled out a few middle-order scalps. Pakistan ended up setting a near-impossible 550 for victory, but the visitors were largely after recovery time for their bowlers, rather than a mammoth lead, from their second dig.

Wahab’s hostile first spell brought him two early wickets in the morning, after Bangladesh had resumed on 107 for 5. Consistently quicker than 140kph, Wahab continued to aim at the batsmen’s chest and chin. He almost had Shakib with his fourth ball of the day, when the batsman arched to edge a bouncer at his nose towards gully. Asad Shafiq came forward and held the ball for a moment during his airborne dive, but let it out of his grasp when his elbow struck the ground.

It was a length ball amid the barrage that brought him his first wicket, when Sarkar poked the last ball of his second over to short cover. A return to a shorter length brought him another scalp, first ball of next over. Shavagata Hom could only prod at a lifter outside off stump, which presented a simple chance to gully, off the shoulder of the bat.

Shakib became the third batsman in the match to be reprieved by a no-ball, when on 23, he was bowled, but Wahab was deemed to have overstepped. The batsman then waged a lone battle alongside the tail, forging a 63-run stand with Shahid, to which Shahid’s contribution was just one.

Shakib prospered largely square of the wicket, slinking back often in his crease to carve the ball through point or bash it through midwicket. Yasir was particularly hard-hit by Shakib’s aggression, disappearing for 14 in one over, which included fours either side of the pitch and another wallop over cow corner. Misbah-ul-Haq returned Wahab to the bowling crease in search of a quick end to the salvo, but through a mix of fortune and panache, Shakib flayed him as well, even occasionally sending Wahab’s bouncers to the fence, usually off the middle of the bat.

Shakib hit three successive fours off Wahab with about 30 minutes to go till lunch, but his failure to secure a single off that over proved the end of Bangladesh. Shahid had been defending admirably for 19 balls, but then lobbed a catch to silly point of Yasir. Pakistan had bowled fewer than 48 overs, and had not used Junaid Khan or Imran Khan in the morning session, yet Misbah refused to enforce the follow on, with so much time left in the game. The pitch was clearly wearing too, and he perhaps wished to let his spinners loose when the conditions suited them better. Pakistan had also spent plenty of time in the field last week in Khulna.

Tamim Iqbal was hampered by an injury he had sustained in the field, but despite his lack of speed between the wickets, he remained in excellent touch at the crease. His cover-driving was particularly sweet, and though a draw seems much likelier for Bangladesh than victory, he struck six fours in his 32 from 42 balls, and went to stumps alongside Mominul Haque who was similarly positive.

The last wicket of the day emphasised the challenge that lay ahead of the hosts, however. Yasir had ripped the ball hard throughout the Test, but was now getting spitting turn off the surface, in addition to drift in the air. He raised an lbw appeal off Imrul Kayes at the end of the tenth over, and delivered perhaps the ball of the match so far to dismiss him with his next delivery. Whizzing one into the rough outside Imrul’s off stump, Yasir got the ball to dip and rip past the inside edge of the batsman’s drive and into middle stump.