<i>A rollicking Rokibul and a sublime Shakib saga </i>
History was calling and Bangladesh showed they were all ears in Grenada. Rokibul Hasan and Shakib Al Hasan shared a thrilling 106-run partnership to charge Bangladesh to their first overseas series win. On an enthralling afternoon's play, Darren Sammy threatened to do the improbable but Rokibul lifted Bangladesh with a plucky innings before the equally aggressive Shakib joined him to clinch a euphoric win.
Set a target of 215, a counterattacking Rokibul, who had walked in at 29 for 2, was joined by Shakib at 67 for 4 and the pair batted bravely to seize back the initiative. Though Sammy took out Rokibul and Mushfiqur Rahim, 14 runs away from the win, Shakib held his nerve to steer the team home. The winning moment came in some style, with Shakib lofting Kemar Roach over long-on.
Though Rokibul fell 42 runs short of the target, it was he who had set up the win with an inspired performance. He had never hit a Test fifty before and he had struggled in the first Test due to his penchant of playing away from the body. However, he had held his own in the first innings here and added a dash of bravado on Monday to lift Bangladesh from a hole. It was a gem of a cameo under the circumstances. Every time West Indies picked up a wicket and threatened to charge ahead, Rokibul counterattacked to keep the hosts on their toes. He chose to take the adventurous route and didn't waste a single run-scoring opportunity; in fact he created a few chances of his own.
It was risky at times but someone had to seize the initiative back from West Indies and Rokibul decided to shoulder that burden. Apart from Sammy's superb spell, Rokibul's battle against Roach was the highlight of the session. Roach v Rokibul was the turning point in the first innings as Roach successfully probed a weakness in Rokibul against the bouncers before proceeding to scythe through the rest of the line-up. Rokibul was in no mood to buckle down today.
He started with a fierce slash over point and remained audacious against anything that was pitched up to him. It was a tantalizing battle as Roach troubled him a bit with short-pitched deliveries and a couple of jaffas that left the bat late but Rokibul released the pressure with a couple of impish square drives. He flicked Sammy and guided him through to third man boundary and thus, preventing West Indies from deploying close-in fielders. And when Ryan Austin, the off-spinner, was brought in for the over before tea, Rokibul dispatched him over deep midwicket and in the last session, he unfurled a couple of peachy off drives to further calm the dressing-room nerves.
Thankfully, for Bangladesh, Rokibul found a willing partner in his captain Shakib, who too oozed intent through his knock. He started off a touch shakily with a stab past second slip, an airy drive past mid-off, and an edge past gully but soon settled down to blunt the attack. Now and then, he teased the slip cordon with his slashes but just when it appeared he was living on the edge, he would unfurl a meaty off drive, defend solidly or steal a single to frustrate the attack.
Shakib took on the dominating role in the final session, spanking boundaries almost at will, including a hattrick of fours against Roach. The first one, an extra-cover drive that brought up his fifty, was followed by a crunching cut and a feisty pull as Bangladesh galloped towards victory. If the final session was almost serene, the second was a dramatic and event-filled. The day had started with a two-hour rain delay and Bangladesh took just 4.1 overs to wrap up West Indies for 209; it was the first time Bangladesh had bowled out the opposition for less than 250 in both innings.
Till Rokibul and Shakib took the bowling on, it was Sammy who stole the show. Every one knows that Sammy is not going to blow the opposition away; his is a gentle art. He builds pressure with a cluster of seaming deliveries in the corridor outside off and gently nudges the batsmen into making a mistake. Bangladesh initially stumbled into making fatal mistakes under the pressure of the chase and perhaps, under the strain of making history.
Sammy struck in his very first over, inducing Tamim Iqbal into edging a delivery leaving him before turning his attention to Zunaed Siddiqui. After bowling 14 deliveries -- most of them in the off-stump channel -- for just one run, he got the next one to curve away from the middle and off line and Zunaed tried to flick it rather injudiciously across the line but edged it low to first slip where Floyd Reifer took a sharp catch. Sammy then produced a gem to take out Mohammad Ashraful, who has gifted his wicket previously in the series but was unlucky to get a very good delivery that shaped away from him very late.
Sammy was supported well by Roach, who was the chief tormentor of Bangladesh. Roach, who surprisingly didn't take the new ball, was introduced in the second session and immediately looked menacing with his cocktail of bouncers and full deliveries outside off stump. He followed a lifting delivery with the one angling away to coax Imrul Kayes into edging to slip where Sammy took a brilliant catch, leaping at second slip.
For a brief while, when Roach and Sammy operated in tandem, the game appeared to be hanging in balance but Shakib and Rokibul ensured their fans won't lose too much hair or nails.