Shakib smashes his way to the top

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going. For Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan it all seemed smooth sailing…downhill. Scores of 41, 1 and 14 in the T20Is after a lean-patch of 18, 7 and 59 in the three ODIs in the New Zealand tour compelled many to raise their voice and point their fingers at the champion allrounder from Magura.

Something had to give, and Shakib responded brilliantly with the bat to notch the highest score in Test cricket for Bangladesh with 217 runs on 13 January, 2017 at Wellington. The lefthander faced only 276 balls in his blistering innings, and smacked 31 fours, especially square on both sides of the field.

Together with captain Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib sent the Black Caps on a leather hunt as they managed to up the tempo of the innings almost at will. The highest partnership in Test cricket of 359 runs for Bangladesh between Shakib and Mushy took the tourists to a commanding score of 542 for 7 after day 2 of the first Test against New Zealand.

Shakib was decisive with his footwork, and the limited movement gave him the balance to hit effortlessly on the front as well as the back foot.

Once he settled down after the early barrage of short-pitch bowling, Shakib looked composed and cashed in on anything too full or wide. As the New Zealand bowlers erred in line and gave him width, Shakib peppered the off side with some crisp shots throughout his innings.

Black Caps were left to rue the missed opportunities, as Shakib was reprieved on four by Mitchell Santner late on the first day and dropped by Ross Taylor on 189.

The all-rounder survived a tight appeal on 137 when wicketkeeper BJ Watling took what appeared to be a sensational diving catch down the leg side only for replays to show he briefly grounded the ball on hitting the turf.

Shakib’s knock came to an end in the 132nd over, and it was Neil Wagner who sent back the Bangladesh cricketer. The bowler also led the round of applause for Shakib as the hosts acknowledged his exquisite innings.

Shakib called his seven hours at the crease "one of proudest days" of his career as he moved up to second on the list of prolific Bangladesh batsmen with 3,146 to his name behind Tamim Iqbal's 3,405.

He said he did not realise he had broken Tamim's record for the highest Test innings by a Bangladesh player until he reached 207 and saw the opener stand and applaud in the stands.

"I thought his score was 214 but when I ran that single and saw Tamim was clapping I thought OK -- the highest," AFP quoted Shakib as saying after the day's play.