Mirpur turns face to bring Test cricket’s beauty
Was that extra bounce? The ball kicked off from a length delivery from Ebadot Hossain and got Afghan opener Abdul Malik high on the bat with nowhere to go and Zakir Hasan gobbled it up diving forward from third slip.
If that action was surprising, the other delivery from Nijatullah Masood in the morning session, the one that caused Mushfiqur Rahim all sorts of trouble, was similarly as exciting as it was surprising for when it comes to Mirpur wickets, extra bounce and seaming conditions all become oxymoronic. The stark difference between the first and second day's play was like day and night.
The beauty of Test cricket comes from the intense battle between bat and ball, a battle that forms the core of cricket's muse. Without it, Test cricket can have a dreary tone. When it comes to Mirpur wickets, Test matches have always been a drab affair. The carry for pacers is missing. The conditions usually do not allow swing and the grass on the surface lends to a slower surface rather than a seaming one where deliveries zip around.
Mirpur has always been dominated by spin thusly. Spinners go through their regular toil and while some with special tricks up their sleeves can get better purchase off the pitch, that beauty is often missing. Mirpur Tests become a drab affair with lots of overs and never the flurry of wickets and excitement that pace can produce.
After the first day's play, where bat dominated ball, the cue had been set that it was indeed another of those traditional Mirpur tracks.
But it was something else completely as Day Two began on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the new ball did not move around consistently and the Afghan pacers' inexperience in the longest format also showed in their indiscipline. By Thursday, Afghanistan had to wait for one over to take the new ball and then everything changed.
In six overs, Bangladesh's innings was wrapped up, with Mushfiqur possibly getting the most unplayable delivery of the game. It was not just the bounce. The ball moved around all morning. All five remaining Bangladesh first innings wickets fell to pace as Nijatullah bagged three to complete a fifer on debut while Yamin Admadzai bagged two to wrap Bangladesh's innings up in a jiffy.
Ebadot and Co. seemed to have the winds in their sails after having to skip a nap or two, perhaps initially having felt that Mushfiqur or Miraz would go on and make the tail wag a bit longer.
The windy conditions helped with swing and the grass seemed to have finally decided that it was time for seam movement. Afghanistan's batters found it just as difficult as Bangladesh's on the second day.
Shoriful Islam bowled with five slips in one session. In 10.4 overs of the Afghanistan innings in the morning session, deliveries zipped past the bat and caused all sorts of trouble with Ebadot and Shoriful getting the ball to talk particularly effectively.
Three more wickets fell before lunch. Then five more in the second session as Afghanistan wilted to pressure. Mehedi Hasan Miraz and Taijul too got on the act with two wickets each as Afghanistan were bowled out in just 39 overs. However, what will be remembered is the pacey, bouncy day, possibly a first in a Mirpur Test.
Asked at the end of the press conference, whether the pace unit would now seek such wickets at home, Ebadot was hopeful. "If you do well, you get the confidence of winning matches. As we are doing well, we can hope."