Mehedi rules action-packed opening day
Bangladesh may have finally settled upon the conditions and personnel to be genuinely competitive in Test matches at home, judging by yesterday's first day's play of the first Test against England at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong. At stumps, considering they lost the toss, the home team can look back on a rare day of Test cricket that they have won, thanks mainly to debutant off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz's five for 64. England, however, will take some solace from battling a skilled spin attack and a difficult wicket to recover somewhat from three for 21 and four from 83 to 258 for seven.
England all-rounder Moeen Ali, who hit a review-laden 68 off 170 balls, was the main bulwark between England and disaster in a day characterised by attacking fields throughout, in itself a rare sight for Bangladesh. There was only one real partnership of note for England and that was the sixth wicket 88-run stand between Jonny Bairstow and Ali. Half an hour after the tea break, England looked to be regaining some control, but Miraz came back and performed his second act after taking three wickets in the first two sessions. In the last ball of the 68th over, he ripped one across Ali, and the resultant edge was taken very smartly by keeper and captain Mushfiqur Rahim.
On a pitch that looks like becoming a raging turner, the new ball has become a weapon for the spinners more than the pacers. Miraz, who opened the bowling along with Shafiul Islam and recognised the benefits of the turn and zip the new cherry provided. So, in the 82nd over Miraz returned with the second new ball and promptly removed the last recognised thorn by bowling Bairstow with an arm ball for 52. Bairstow had earlier benefited from a dropped chance by Sabbir Rahman at slip off Taijul Islam in the 49th over when he was just on 13. From 237 for seven Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid negotiated Miraz's threat till the end of the day.
But it was the story of the man who will only turn 19 the day after this Test is scheduled to end. He became the seventh bowler from Bangladesh to capture a debut five-for after Naimur Rahman, Manjural Islam, Mahmudullah Riyad, Elias Sunny, Shohag Gazi and current teammate Taijul Islam. As there are still three wickets on offer, he may eclipse the best debut bowling figures of six for 74 set by Gazi against the West Indies in November 2012.
He was calmness personified as he started operating on a probing line and length that demanded that the ball be played. Miraz drew first blood when, in the 10th over, he bowled the opposition's debutant Ben Duckett with a peach that pitched on leg stump from around the wicket and hit the left-hander's middle and off stump.
In the next over, for once, Shakib Al Hasan benefited from the threats posed by a bowler bowling at the other end and not the other way around as England skipper Alastair Cook uncharacteristically threw his bat at a sweep only for the ball to ricochet off his gloves onto the stumps.
Miraz returned in the next over to bowl an arm-ball that deceived Gary Ballance into going back and playing for the turn, but his rapid adjustment was not rapid enough to prevent the ball hitting the pad a fraction of a second before it hit his bat. The umpire only saw bat hit ball, but behind the stumps Mushfiqur had eyes quick enough to see it differently and called for a review that overturned the decision. This bit of quick thinking may have bred overconfidence as Mushfiqur wasted the next three review chances in a day filled with reviews, seven in all.
Ali then joined England's best batsman Joe Root with the score on 21 for three. Root showed why he is arguably the best batsman in the world. He was batting as if on another wicket against lesser bowlers, hitting two boundaries off Shakib's next over and repeating the dose on Miraz's fellow debutant Kamrul Islam Rabbi in the 17th over. England may have been in much deeper trouble in the over before, when Miraz nearly had Moeen Ali leg-before. The umpire turned down the appeal but replays showed it going on to hit leg and middle. Mushfiqur however did not review.
Then followed a bizarre sequence of reviews -- three in the space of six balls -- all against Ali originally given out by umpire Kumar Dharmasena either side of lunch in the 27th and 29th overs with Shakib the disappointed bowler each time. The first one had Moeen sweeping and the ball hit the pad on or just outside off stump, with replays showing an inside edge.
Two reviews in an over followed after lunch and this time the first one was missing leg and the next striking outside off stump.
Miraz however did not need reviews as he removed Root for a 49-ball 40 in the 30th over, deceiving the batsman with a straighter ball that he edged into Mushfiqur's pad before it nestled in the hands of Bangladesh's third debutant to appear on the scorecard, Sabbir, at slip.
Ben Stokes then walked out and hit a six over midwicket off Shakib, but Bangladesh all-rounder had the last laugh in the 41st over, bowling his counterpart with a sharply spinning delivery that beat the Englishman's defences.