Bangladesh battle towards thrilling climax

Tea Bangladesh 248 and 179 for 5 (Mushfiqur 22*, Sabbir 25*) need another 107 runs to beat England 293 and 240 (Stokes 85, Bairstow 47, Shakib 5-85)
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England removed both Bangladesh openers before lunch © Getty Images

England’s cricketers were facing a test of nerve in the face of a confident, no-regrets run-chase from Bangladesh’s batsmen, as the first Test at Chittagong built towards a thrilling climax on the fourth afternoon.

By tea, with the hardness of the new ball long gone and another probing spell of reverse-swing negated, Bangladesh had reached 179 for 5, with Mushfiqur Rahim and Sabbir Rahman settling into a vital and aggressive seventh-wicket stand. Bangladesh need another 107 runs to seal what would unquestionably count as their greatest Test victory.

Sabbir, in particular, had given the chase an injection of adrenalin. Despite being on Test debut, he was treating the contest as just another of his 60-odd limited-overs games, and with two sixes and a four off the spin of Moeen Ali, he had given a nervous Chittagong crowd plenty reason to believe as their numbers and belief mounted with every stroke.

The key man, however, is surely the captain Mushfiqur, who was unbeaten on 20 not out from 55 balls at the break – another unflustered display of patience, skill and experience. He has, after all, been playing Test cricket for longer even than England’s newly crowned most-capped cricketer, Alastair Cook.

After being bowled out for 240 in the first 20 minutes of the day to leave a victory target of 286, England made their intentions plain from the outset by opening with two spinners, Gareth Batty and Moeen – the first time they had gone down that route since the Lord’s Test against South Africa in 2008.

Both men bowled some unplayable deliveries, but Bangladesh’s attitude was established in a skilful and aggressive 43 from Imrul Kayes, who found a means to counterattack in style, sweeping with intent to disrupt their lengths and pick off his boundaries behind square, while playing with confidence off the back foot in between whiles.

England, however, stuck to their task – patience, as Jonny Bairstow had rightly pointed out on the third evening, was every bit as important as penetration – and they earned their first reward in the tenth over when Tamim Iqbal, the stand-out batsman of Bangladesh’s first innings, was sharply caught for 9 by Gary Ballance at short leg, as Moeen found some extra bite off the surface to take an inside-edge on to the knee-roll.

Bangladesh had been living dangerously throughout the opening overs – Tamim nearly holed out to mid-off in the first over of the chase and was later dropped on 7 at extra cover as the substitute Haseeb Hameed rushed back to gather a lofted drive. But the positive mindset reaped its own dividends, with Cook forced to shed a few close catchers to patrol his boundaries, and it was a minor victory when England turned to seam as early as the 15th over, when Chris Woakes was thrown the ball in a bid to change the tempo.

However, with five minutes to go until lunch, England struck a body blow with the key extraction of Imrul, caught on the sweep by Joe Root at leg slip as Adil Rashid found some extra bounce out of the rough. It was an opening that gave the attack a visible lift – in particular Batty, who resumed after the break with an extra spring in his step and more pace through the air, and struck twice in two overs with a pair of lbws.

First to fall was Mominul Haque for 27, who had already had one big let-off on 11, when England failed to review an lbw appeal from Moeen that would have been overturned. Perhaps emboldened by that missed opportunity, Cook responded to Batty’s insistent appeal when Mominul was hit on the pad sweeping, and sure enough, replays showed that the ball had straightened from a leg-stump line would have gone on to hit middle.

Eight balls later, and Batty’s roar of triumph was once again echoing around Chittagong when Mahmudullah – always eager to use his feet – was smashed on the shin by a fuller length and sent on his way for 17. A review could not save him, and at 108 for 4, the door was ajar for England to push for victory.

Bangladesh’s middle-order, however, contains two of their toughest nuts in Mushfiqur and Shakib Al Hasan, and for the best part of an hour, the pair pushed back against the tide, with Shakib in particular seeking to atone for his wasteful dismissal in the first innings. A pair of fizzing boundaries off Rashid lifted the spirits of the crowd – a slammed drive through mid-off and a vast bottom-handed swipe over long-on for six – but on 24, he received the best ball of the innings to date, a perfect ripping offbreak from Moeen that he couldn’t help but nick to the keeper.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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