Tigers' test of value
The first test match between Bangladesh and Pakistan at Khulna will be etched in the minds of supporters of both teams for different reasons. Bangladesh's first draw against Pakistan after eight consecutive losses was as good as a win for their fans. On the other hand Pakistan cricket followers witnessed their team being outclassed and outplayed by Bangladesh after the drubbing in the one-day series.
When one looks at the scorecard of the match, there are more positives for Bangladesh to take into the second test than Pakistan. Batting first after winning the toss, Bangladesh batsmen showed their resolve to occupy the crease and grind out runs on the first day.
Although the batting-friendly pitch was hardly offering any assistance to the Pakistani fast and slow bowlers, all the Bangladeshi top-order batsmen except Mominul Haque refused to take the initiative and score more fluently. Bangladesh scored 300 runs in 110.4 overs (667 balls) in the first innings while Pakistan reached their 300 in 79.1 overs (478 balls) in their first innings of the match.
Starting day two on 236/4, Bangladesh looked set for a huge total but Pakistan came back into the match with quick wickets, bowling out their opponent for 332 runs shortly after lunch. Bangladesh's run-rate of 2.76 runs per over in the first innings raised few questions among their fans. However, when Bangladesh batted in the 2nd innings, they brilliantly compensated for the slow going in their first outing, courtesy of Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes.
Imrul and Tamim made a mockery of the 296-run deficit by their record opening stand of 312, most by runs for Bangladesh in test matches. The highest opening partnership in the second innings of a Test match between the Bangladesh openers was a performance, according to their coach Hathurusingha worthy of being called a watershed moment.
Tamim scored his first double ton and became the highest scorer for Bangladesh with 206 runs. Imrul made the highest score of his career with 150 runs. Both of them batted positively, sending the Pakistani bowlers on a leather hunt at Khulna Stadium. 300 runs for the first wicket came in 417 balls. The middle-order batsmen carried on in the same vein as the openers and batted aggressively without any apprehension. Bangladesh scored 555 runs at the rate of 4.08 runs per over. Batting wise, Bangladesh never looked better!
In terms of bowling, there is definite room for improvement given the performance when Pakistan batted in the match. Pakistan scored 628 runs in 168.4 overs at an average of 3.72 runs per over. With a 600 plus total, Pakistan ensured they wouldn't lose and the onus was on Bangladesh to save the match.
Bangladesh's bowling unit included two pacers (Rubel Hossain and Mohammad Shahid) and three spinners (Shakib Al Hasan, Taijul Islam and Shuvagata Hom). It felt the pacers were only to take the shine off the new ball for the spinners to get more purchase from the pitch. Both Rubel and Shahid were unable to use the new cherry to their advantage, and failed to keep the Pakistan batsmen quiet. Rubel's pace was not threatening while Shahid was slightly better than military-medium at best.
As the fast bowlers gave away runs too easily, spinners found it extremely difficult to exert pressure, partly due to the placid pitch and partly due to their short-pitch rubbish. Pakistan batters milked the spinners with ease as the field was spread after they struck some lusty blows. Shakib's performance was particularly disappointing as he dropped his length short far too often for his liking. As the pitch was terribly slow, the ball sat up for the batsmen to strike with ease.
Taijul Islam was the only bowler who looked like threatening the batsmen with his spin and good control of flight. He picked up six wickets for 163 runs in 46.4 overs, but couldn't stop the flow of runs even when a new batsman came to the wicket.
Shuvagata had more variety in his bowling but wasn't as penetrative as he would like to be. When the batsmen used their feet and swept cleverly, all the Bangladeshi spinners seemed short of ideas during the first test match.
All in all, Bangladesh's bowlers must pull up their socks before the second test match begins at Dhaka.