Bangladesh in front after fluctuating day

Bangladesh 220 and 152 for 3 (Imrul 59*) lead England 244 (Root 56, Mehedi 6-82) by 128 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Imrul Kayes helped Bangladesh into the lead with an unbeaten fifty © Associated Press

Bangladesh’s pursuit of a first Test win over England has been nothing if not absorbing. Following their narrow defeat in Chittagong, they once again fought themselves into a promising position in the second Test, leading by 128 runs and hopeful of setting England a significant fourth-innings target to chase on a wearing surface. Only Bangladesh’s recent record – and history itself – would lead you to bet against them.

The second day at Mirpur highlighted their fragility, as well as the weaknesses of an England team one-and-a-half games into a seven-Test odyssey on the subcontinent. England were struggling to stay afloat after being reduced to 144 for 8 during the morning session, 18-year-old offspinner Mehedi Hasan bewitching the top order for his second consecutive six-for, before a record stand between Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid carried them into a scarcely believable first-innings lead.

Bangladesh’s openers responded with a counterattack against the new ball, led by the irrepressible Tamim Iqbal, before two wickets in three balls caused another tremor. Mahmudullah’s dismissal from the last ball of the day, slogging wildly at Zafar Ansari, then took the gloss off a recovery stand of 86 with Imrul Kayes and England, mindful of the way Bangladesh plunged from 171 for 1 to 220 all out on Friday, will not have given up hope. Like one of the many tributaries flowing into the Bay of Bengal, this fluctuating match has refused to follow a set course.

The resurrection of England’s first innings, another stark reversal of fortunes, demonstrated the point. Having been eight down and 76 runs in arrears, Woakes and Rashid put on 99 together as Bangladesh visibly wilted after a dominant morning session in which they had claimed five wickets and seemingly regained control of the match.

Their mettle was further tested by an off-field intervention. England had edged in front when Woakes, on 38, slapped a high full toss from Sabbir Rahman straight to midwicket but Chris Gaffaney, the TV umpire, deemed the delivery a no-ball for being above waist height – an undoubtedly harsh decision – and England went on to add another 22 runs to their total. Given that was the margin between the sides in Chittagong, it could still prove crucial.

Tamim and Imrul wiped out the deficit, as momentum continued to shift and England’s spinners once again came under attack. Ansari removed Tamim for his maiden Test wicket and Ben Stokes struck in the following over but Imrul moved past 50 and was steady at the close – even if Mahmudullah as not.

The Woakes-Rashid partnership was England’s highest for the ninth wicket in Asia and kept the tourists in game after another trial by spin. At lunch, England had been left sagging on the ropes and contemplating a significant first-innings deficit, despite a battling fifty from Joe Root.

Woakes and Rashid were initially only focused on getting to the break, though both needed some luck to survive. Woakes was given out caught behind but successfully reviewed, while Mushfiqur Rahim’s resort to the DRS could not dislodge Rashid after the ball deflected off his body to slip. Rashid could also have been stumped when Mushfiqur dropped the ball on to the wicket but the bails stayed in place.

They remained glued together for almost the entirety of the afternoon session, playing straight against the softening ball and frustrating Bangladesh’s hopes of a potentially decisive lead. After 56 overs exclusively of spin, Mushfiqur finally called on his one seamer, Kamrul Islam Rabbi, before the captain turned, slightly in desperation, to Sabbir, who ought to have had Woakes as his first Test wicket – though it was neither a shot nor a delivery to be proud of.

Gaffaney’s decision further deflated Bangladesh and although Mehedi had Woakes smartly caught at leg slip by the diving Shuvagata Hom four runs short of a second Test half-century and Steven Finn did not last long, edging to Mushfiqur in the next over, the scales had tipped England’s way.

On this security-heavy tour, England have become used to travelling in convoy through closed-off roads, free from the usual traffic, Dhaka’s notoriously sclerotic system bypassed. The two Tests against Bangladesh have been similarly fast-moving, the traditionally glacial progress of subcontinental cricket melting into something far-less predictable.

The challenge for England was clear from the outset. Mehedi was again Bangladesh’s spin kingpin and there were already signs of the pitch offering more grip after Moeen Ali edged the third ball of the day to slip on the bounce. Fourteen runs had come from 11 deliveries in slightly frantic fashion when Moeen tried to manufacture a sweep and Mehedi slid the ball past the bottom edge to shudder off stump.

During an extended morning session, which spanned almost 40 overs, on a surface that was perfectly suited to the talents of the home attack, Mushfiqur bowled his three spinners throughout. Root provided the principal roadblock to Bangladeshi ambition. He survived one tough chance to slip and many more deliveries spitting past the bat to compile his first half-century of the winter before becoming the eighth man out shortly before lunch. Having seen Taijul Islam spin the ball almost at right angles past his bat, he was defeated by the very next delivery, one that pitched in almost exactly the same spot only to zero in on leg stump.

Jonny Bairstow was the only other top-order batsman to reach 20, while Ansari, the debutant at No. 8, hung in as best he could. It took a superb reaction catch from Shuvagata at gully to remove him, giving Mehedi his five-for in the process; he became only the second offspinner after Sonny Ramadhin to do so twice in his first two Test matches.

Taijul might have removed dislodged Root on 19, but Mahmudullah failed to get more than fingertips on a thick edge that gave him little time to react as the ball diverted past Mushfiqur’s gloves. The next delivery brought the wicket of Stokes, taken at short leg for a duck, the ball spinning in sharply from over the wicket to deflect off the inside edge via the thigh pad.

England were 69 for 5 and once again in need of a sixth-wicket rescue job. Bairstow provided one of sorts (these things are relative), although his 45-run association with Root was not quite enough to extend a run of 50-plus stands that had stretched back to England’s defeat to Pakistan at Lord’s in July. The Yorkshire pair were proactive in their running and watchful in defence, accepting that the ball would frequently rip past the edge but quickly resetting their sights for the next delivery.

Bangladesh reviewed unsuccessfully when Root was on 33, seeking an lbw, but after their doughty association had held for 16.3 overs – by far the longest of the innings until Woakes and Rashid came together – and England were perhaps just beginning to think about parity, Bairstow played absentmindedly around Mehedi’s first ball back into the attack to be pinned in front of his stumps.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.