Pitches a product of winning mindset
In March 2010, Bangladesh had set England a target of 209 to win in the fourth innings in Mirpur. Then, the match had gone till the fifth day and the fifth morning started with Bangladesh trying to bat out time in order to salvage a draw after conceding a first innings lead of 77. Fans and players alike were hopeful after they batted till after lunch and set a target of 209, just enough to hope for a draw.
Alastair Cook, on his first tour as captain, then hit an unbeaten century and Kevin Pietersen a quickfire 74 to take England home with nine wickets and plenty of time to spare, making a mockery of home hopes.
|19||Mehedi Hasan now has the most Test wickets after the first two Test matches for Bangladesh with 19 scalps to his name. Mahmudullah Riyad and Sohag Gazi are second with 12 each. It is also the highest number of wickets by a Bangladeshi in any Test series, surpassing Enamul Haque and Shakib Al Hasan's 18-wicket hauls.|
|At 19 years and 5 days, Mehedi became the second-youngest player to claim a 10-wicket haul against England. India's LSivaramakrishnan did it when he was 18 years and 338 days.|
|12||Mehedi's 12 for 159 is the best Test bowling analysis for Bangladesh, surpassing Enamul Haque's haul of 12 for 200 against Zimbabwe in 2005.|
|9||Nine players have won the man-of-the-series awards on debut series. Mehedi joins Rohit Sharma, James Pattinson, Vernon Philander, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ajantha Mendis, Stuart Clark, Jacques Rudolph and Sourav Ganguly.|
|8||The number of Test wins Bangladesh now have. All their other wins have come against either Zimbabwe or the West Indies.|
|4th||Mehedi also has the fourth-highest number of wickets overall after the first two Test matches. India's Narendra Hirwani leads that list with 24, with England's Alec Bedser (22 wkts) and Bob Massie (21) behind him.|
When he fronted up to the press yesterday after a 108-run loss to Bangladesh in the second Test that ended within three days, even if he wasn't thinking of that match six and a half years ago, a question from the British press contingent took him back to 2010.
"They've obviously taken big strides, but we've played them on totally different wickets," said Cook when asked how different Bangladesh were as a side since he last played them in a Test in their backyard. "Last time the wickets were flatter, they didn't spin as much. They've decided that's the way they want to be brave and try to win the game, and why wouldn't you as a side?"
What he may have missed, however, is that the change in pitches are a result of a change in mindset.
For Bangladesh, it was not the obvious thing to do. It would have been much easier to look for more draws. But they had the heart to gamble in the format they were least proficient in, and the skills to pull it off.
"We have never played on wickets like these before," said skipper Mushfiqur Rahim, presenting the other side of the pitch phenomenon moments after Cook had completed his presser. Although they have proven to have better spinners than England and were able to negotiate England's twirlers better, this was as much a step into the unknown as England had taken when they stepped out to play the first Test of the series in Chittagong on October 20.
Cook may have hoped that Bangladesh would see the 22-run loss in Chittagong as a backfire of their new policy to go for the win. Instead they doubled down -- they selected only one pacer in the eleven and the pitch in Mirpur was as spin-friendly as the Chittagong one, while being more prone to breaking down because of its clay base.
Cook would have done well to ask Eoin Morgan, England's one-day captain who chose to sit out the tour, about Bangladesh's change because although the methods were vastly different, the mindset that made England reluctantly share the spoils of a series they would have expected to win is a continuation of the one which resulted in the 15-run win that saw England exit the World Cup last year.
That came on the back of a disastrous 2014, during most of which Bangladesh could not buy a win. Then Mashrafe Bin Mortaza took over the reins and with coach Chandika Hathurusingha devised strategies to win and a team more than willing to execute them. And once the joy of winning was tasted, it was not one they wanted to let go of, regardless of format.
It is cause for celebration that Bangladesh, outstripping all expectations, translated that attitude so quickly to the Test arena. Their play is not perfect by any means -- there were frustrating moments of captaincy brain-freezes yesterday and the batsmen seemed too anxious to get runs on the board -- but they have finally found their niche at home and much like in the ODI format, they can look forward to being a force in Tests at home too.
"They'll find it hard on bouncy wickets," added Cook when talking about his opponents. Judging by Bangladesh's track record of adjusting strategy and personnel to the conditions, that is a prediction Cook should not be putting much money on.