'First 10-15 balls crucial'
With the Test poised on a knife edge, the feeling that permeated the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium yesterday after the end of the fourth day's play was one of being grateful for having been there.
The denouement was still in the offing, although it would have to wait for the morning session today -- 33 runs for home ecstasy and two wickets for the tourists to complete a win that they have fought tooth and nail for.
When such a game of cricket unfolds, unless there are unusually high levels of rancour between the sides, opponents become co-actors in a spectacle rather than mere adversaries, and that was reflected in coach Chandika Hathurusingha's words after the day's play.
"This is one of the best games I have watched. I am very pleased with the performance of both teams," said Hathurusingha.
"I am really happy that they [Bangladesh] took 20 wickets. It was a positive," he said. "I am happy to be still in the game in the fourth day against a team like England. I don't think anyone gave us a chance four days ago. We had a good game plan. We would like to have done better in the first innings."
The churlish would say that Hathurusingha himself did not give the team much of a chance to win as he said before the squad was announced that winning would be a bonus and seemed sceptical then of the team's ability to extract 20 wickets. With the benefit of hindsight however, he along with skipper Mushfiqur Rahim probably deserves much of the credit for devising a strategy that was executable by the resources at hand. When one considers that Bangladesh are playing their first Test in nearly 15 months and England their 17th in that period, their achievement becomes all the more impressive.
"We prepared well. Bowlers have proved themselves and we got a wicket that we think suited our strength. Tactically we played a good game. We got the combination on this kind of wicket.
"I am a bit disappointed that we could have been ahead of the game in the first innings, more than what we are now. We are chasing the lead that we conceded in the first innings," said Hathurusingha, alluding to the 45-run first innings deficit which was a result of Bangladesh's only poor passage of play – the hour and six minutes on the third day which saw their last five wickets fall for 27 runs.
Hathurusingha was full of praise for the steel debutant Sabbir Rahman showed in batting out the day and scoring 59 on a very tough pitch. Bangladesh's hopes now rest on Sabbir and Taijul Islam, who added 15 runs and saw out the day when all hope seemed to be lost when the eighth wicket fell with the score on 238.
"When Taijul went in to bat, we needed 46/47 runs, which we couldn't score in 5 or 6 overs," explained the coach. "Best scenario was to bat them out and take the game to the fifth day. Now the challenge is to bat as long as possible tomorrow, and hoping we will win.
"Our batsmen have to bat the first 10-15 balls, and they have to come and get the wickets. We have 90 overs to bat."