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Spinners make hosts struggle
Deepti Patwardhan |
December 18, 2004 12:11 IST
Last Updated: December 18, 2004 17:06 IST
Bangladesh look poised for yet another collapse against India in the first innings of the second Test at the M A Aziz stadium in Chittagong on Saturday. After starting relatively well, the hosts ended the second day on 54 for three.
It were the Indian spinners--Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh--who made the early strikes this time. The pitch had started cracking on the third day. The Bangladesh spinners had a successful outing in the first two sessions but it was only an indicator of what their illustrious counterparts in the Indian team would achieve.
Harbhajan, after enjoying his day out with the willow, caused problems with the ball picking up the crucial wicket of Iqbal. His spin partner Kumble did better, finishing with figures of 14 for two in 10.3 overs.
India had earlier piled on 540 runs in the first innings.
Bangladesh got off to a perfect start as they sent Sachin Tendulkar packing on the first ball of the day. Mashrafe Mortaza was at it again, right on line from the very first ball, trapping Tendulkar in front of the stumps. Chasing a record 35th Test century, Tendulkar tried to turn a ball pitched on the off stump to the leg-side without any real foot movement. The ball rapped him on the knees. (334 for 3)
The Indian maestro had looked a bit distracted by some movement over the sightscreen when he came out to bat.
Fired up, Mortaza then bowled a superb first over. He started with two short balls to Sourav Ganguly and followed it with outswinging deliveries. The Indian captain resisted sticking his bat out.
A sharp rising ball from Mortaza had Ganguly in two minds. He started out to play a pull shot but withdrew at the last minute. The ball banged into his shoulder.
Mortaza was spot on with his line and length; making the Indian batsmen play each ball.
But Nazmul Hossain wasn't able to keep the pressure at the other end. Ganguly opened his account with a pull off Hossain and followed it up with a fluent drive to the cover boundary. He didn't need any invitation whenever the ball was short and wide and touched the ball to the fence.
Rahul Dravid, resuming on 145, played himself in and knocked the required five runs to cross the 150-mark for the ninth time in his career. The Indian vice-captain had broken Tendulkar's world record of most consecutive Tests (84) since debut in the first Test against Bangladesh but hadn't stayed long enough at the crease to savour the moment.
He was more aggressive in the second Test. He didn't spare the bad balls and charmed with his poise. After a watchful start on Friday, he went for his shots and played one of the more fluent innings this year.
He and Ganguly have a long history, and the captain-vice-captain combination was going just fine. With ample fours coming their way, running between the wickets hardly mattered. The duo quickly took the score to 371, adding 37 runs in eight overs in the morning. But Mortaza wasn't finished yet.
Dravid tried to stand up and hit an outgoing delivery, only managing a faint edge leaving wicketkeeper Khaled Mashud to complete the formality. His 160 contained 24 fours.
V V S Laxman followed soon after. After scoring only nine runs, he fell to Mohammed Rafique's first over of the day. He got a leading edge against the left-arm spinner, introduced after the drinks break. Rafique hauled himself to the left to claim a catch.
Though it was stunning effort, after holding on to the ball, Rafique fell on the practice wicket with the ball touching the ground. Laxman walked back to the pavilion without waiting for the umpire's decision. (384 for 5)
Bangladesh was now surging back into the game. The fielding was sharp in the morning, Mortaza and Rafique had got the three big guns in the Indian batting line-up.
The plucky Dinesh Karthik made a cheeky beginning to his innings. He turned the ball to the leg side and shot off for a single making his captain scamper to the other end. Karthik found the boundaries also but kept himself and Ganguly busy with singles.
He was let off on eight by Manjural Rana at first slip off Mohammed Rafique. He flayed at the ball and Rana again reacted late. But Karthik didn't live too long to enjoy the reprieve.
In Rafique's next over, he rushed down the wicket and swung the bat at a flighted delivery. The ball clipped his bat and Mashud took the catch. (402 for 6)
Rafique was bringing all his experience into play.
Irfan Pathan got out in the last over before lunch. He tapped a few before he got excited seeing a ball tossed up and went for a wild slog sweep. The ball flew high into the air and landed in the wicket keeper's gloves. (412 for 7)
The captain was not too happy with the rush of blood from his young players. But while all the drama was happening at the other end, he quietly went past Azharuddin's record of 1,517 runs in away Test matches, the most runs by an Indian captain.
After the initial flurry of fours, the left-hander became quiet and from 4.19, India's scoring rate came down to 3.27.
India began the afternoon session on the back foot. And Anil Kumble provided as the perfect foil for Ganguly. Kumble batted calmly with the captain as the score inched towards 450.
With Bangladesh opting for spin at both ends, India managed just 47 runs in 18 overs after tea.
Ganguly employed the sweep shot to very good effect, picking off the spinners from the off-stump and bending it down to the vacant spots in the outfield. Ganguly brought up his fifty with a sweep to fine leg. The Indian captain applied himself and farmed the strike to make sure India didn't suffer any further casualties.
Kumble was out stumped, dragging the back foot outside the crease to a ball that spun away from Ashraful. Khaled Mashud, who was having a good day behind the wickets, snapped the bails to have India eight down at 465.
The partnership between Ganguly and Kumble had added 53 runs, with the Indian leg spinner scoring 23.
Harbhajan Singh came out with 'Viv Richards' swagger and pulled the first ball to the fence. The next ball he stood upright with his bat hanging horizontol to the bat and saw the ball go past him. Ganguly had seen some overconfident acts in the day and marched to the off-spinner to send a note of caution.
But Harbhajan meant to entertain.
Bhajji started the blitz with a six over mid-wicket off Ashraful. In the next over Rafique was treated with disdain. Harbhajan came down the wicket and smashed the ball over long-on. Two balls later he rocked back and belted a short and wide ball past point.
Ganguly joined in the party with a couple of hits to the fence. India had added 33 runs in nine minutes and reached 500, with the last 50 coming off just 62 balls.
Nazmul Hossain was introduced into the attack. But Harbhajan treated the bowler with contempt.
He hit a conventional lofted drive over mid-on, then another clean hit over mid-off took him into the 40s. Another swing over mid-wicket and Harbhajan looked set to reach another Test fifty.
With just ten minutes to go for tea, Ganguly was itching to get to his hundred. He tried stepping down the pitch and clearing the fielder at long-on, but ended up spooning the catch to Talha Jubair off Rafique. The fielder clung on to the ball just an inch inside the boundary ropes. Ganguly was dismissed for 88. (540 for 9)
Ganguly and Harbhjan added 75 runs in 11.3 overs at a run rate of 6.5.
Harbhajan was dismissed going for another extravagant shot. The right-hander tried to hit a ball from Hossain over extra-cover but mistimed it to Manjural Rana and the Indian innings closed on 540.
Both batsmen fell short of the landmarks but had put India in command after a dull morning session. Harbhajan threw caution to the winds and hit the ball almost anywhere he wanted to. He picked up the vacant spots well and carved a gem of an innings to end the Indian innings on an enthusiastic note.
Post tea session
For the first time in the series the Bangladesh batsmen showed some intent. The wicket had nothing in it and the Indian opening bowlers were too inconsistent to rattle Javed Omar and Nafis Iqbal.
Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan bowled wide outside the off stump and the batsmen were really not forced to play. The wicket had dried out and with the sun blazing in Pathan was not able to extract any movement off the pitch. With his best weapon taken away, the left arm seamer didn't look half as effective as he was in the first Test in Dhaka.
Iqbal, who had scored a determined 54 in the second innings of the first Test, looked more positive and drove the ball to the fence. Omar, the more experienced of the two, played with a dead bat as Bangladesh mustered only 15 runs off the first 11 overs.
Umpire Aleem Dar of Pakistan warned Zaheer for following through on the area between stumps. Two overs later, Ganguly took him of the attack and brought Pathan on.
Ganguly attacked Omar with three slips for Pathan and the batsman almost fell into the trap. He snicked one from Pathan but the ball fell short between the second and third slip.
Iqbal was also lucky as the Indian wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik dropped him on 18. Kumble got the ball to bounce, turn and produced as edge, but the ball brushed past the 'keeper's gloves.
In the 20th over India went for the double spin attack and in no time the spinners had the batsmen poking at the balls in front of the pads. Both Kumble and Harbhajan had the ball scooting off the pitch and pressurized the batsmen with four fielders round the bat.
It seemed like it was only a matter a time before one of the openers would succumb to the Indian attack. And that's exactly what happened.
Kumble removed the leg slip and stationed the man at second slip instead for Omar. The batsmen again went for the drive and the ball turned just enough to induce an edge. Rahul Dravid gobbled up the ball without any fuss. (48 for 1)
Omar and Iqbal were on their way to strike the first partnership of fifty, but were too edgy against the spinners to realize a sizable score. Their stand of 48 came at a rate of 1.83.
Captain Habibul Bashar preserved himself for Sunday and sent in Mashrafe Mortaza in. But the damage was done at the other end, when Harbhajan got Nafis Iqbal to inside edge the ball to Gautam Gambhir at forward short leg. (54 for 2)
Night watchman Mortaza survived a few anxious moments. Kumble bowled a fuller length to him right on his leg stump and the tailender kept pegging at the ball. A straighter one from Kumble had the batsmen in doubt. Mortaza took a stride forward to a ball pitched on the off stump and was out leg before wicket offering no shot. (54 for 3)
From a respectable position of 48 for no loss, Bangladesh were staring defeat in the face on 54 for three when stumps were drawn. Bangladesh had lost three wickets in six runs, undermining the efforts of the first 26 overs.
Their batting turned out a bit like their two sessions in the field on Saturday. They started on a high note but cracked under the pressure.