Bangladesh folded up for 106 in 30.3 overs in their first innings after winning the toss and batting first in the pink-ball Test. As the Indian bowlers worked up pace and bowled well-directed bouncers, the visitors looked shaky. Some of their lower-order batsman even backed off. Worse, Liton Das was hit on the helmet by Mohammed Shami bouncer and retired hurt. He failed the concussion test and had to be replaced by Mehidy Hasan.
In the first over after lunch, a 3pm supper break to be exact, another Shami bouncer thudded into the Nayeem Hasan’s helmet. The youngster carried on, trying to throw his bat at everything. After Bangladesh were done with their innings, Hasan pulled out and Taijul Islam became his concussion substitute. For the first since the ICC introduced the concussion rule in July, two substitutes were used in a match.
Das and Nayeem’s precautionary examinations at Woodlands hospital went well, as CT scans revealed “no obvious evidence of skull injury”. That was the only good news they got on Friday. On the field, things yet again was depressing.
By 1pm, when the match started, 40,000 fans had turned up at Eden Gardens. The number rose to 60,000 by the time the ‘twilight zone’ arrived. About two-and-a-half hours later, after Virat Kohli reached his half-century, spectators started to leave. The day/evening wasn’t finished yet and the India captain was still at the crease, making light of the difficulties that the conditions and a heavily-lacquered pink ball posed. After the novelty is gone and the dust is settled, time for a reality check will come. Pink-ball cricket alone will not be able to give Test cricket a new lease of life. The game’s purest format needs competition to thrive. Unfortunately it’s in dire supply in the ongoing series.
Ishant Sharma returned with 5/22, his 10th five-for in this format. Imrul Kayes was Ishant’s first victim. He rolled his fingers over the seam and made the ball to jag back. Kayes played for a delivery which he thought would hold its line. The opener was plumb in front. Mahmudullah’s dismissal came via an away-goer, Ishant’s stock ball. The Bangladesh batsman fished at it and a lesser wicketkeeper might not have pulled off the catch. But Wriddhiman Saha dived full-length in front of first slip and picked it inches off the ground.
For lower-order batsmen like Ebadat Hossain and Nayeem, Ishant attacked the stumps. He has developed this skill of late, the ball coming in from an angle and then going straight or holding its line. Poor footwork from the batsman can even give this delivery a leg-cutter-like appearance, as was the case with Nayeem. In between, Ishant had Mehidy falling into a trap. Cheteshwar Pujara at mid-wicket was moved a bit squarish, a full delivery on middle and leg followed, and the batsman flicked it straight to the fielder.
Grass 6mm long notwithstanding, the pitch was a little two-paced to start with. Some deliveries flew but the odd ball stopped as well. The Indian pace trio took a bit of time to figure out the right length. “The pink ball was very different to red ball. When we started bowling at normal lengths, the ball wasn’t swinging that much. We then figured out the length. We talked about it among ourselves, the three fast bowlers. We started hitting the right lengths after that,” Ishant said.
The beauty of this Indian pace attack is the way the three fast bowlers complement each other. Ishant, Shami and Umesh Yadav are not choosy about bowling from a particular end. They don’t mind playing second fiddle. Ishant usually plays second fiddle in a three-pronged attack. Today, he was the wrecker-in-chief. So Umesh, even after making early inroads, decided to play the supporting role, when Ishant raised his game. Umesh had removed Shadman Islam, Haque and Mithun to put the visitors on the ropes. Shami took two wickets but more importantly, softened up the Bangladesh batsmen with his aggression; bouncers to be precise.
“The important thing is that we have a healthy competition. It’s not about individual performance. If you don’t have healthy competition and you don’t have someone to challenge your place, I don’t think you can perform this well,” Ishant said.
To add to the bowling performance, India’s catching was superb. The hosts had dropped a few sitters in the first Test at Indore. They more than made up for that here despite the fact that the pink ball presented a greater degree of difficulty. Rohit’s diving catch at second slip to dismiss Haque was top-class. Saha’s ‘keeping at times felt like from a different planet.
Bangladesh’s first innings didn’t last till twilight. And that played just 30.3 overs meant the longevity of the pink ball wasn’t tested. When India batted, Pujara played with such élan that any chance of a Bangladesh comeback evaporated quickly.
At 43/2, with both openers gone, there was a window for the visitors. But Pujara took two fours off Abu Jayed in an over before Kohli, too, joined the party. Through a 94-run stand, the window was slammed shut on the visitors. Although Pujara departed for 55, Kohli remained unbeaten on 59 taking India to 174/3 at stumps.
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