Bangladesh’s openers deserve all the plaudits and praise that is coming their way after showing resolute resilience to dig the hosts out of a hole. PHOTO: AFP
If one day Bangladesh do go on to become a global force in cricket, then historians will recall this tour of Pakistan as the time it all changed for the minnows.
They showed concentration, class, aggression and talent in equal measure throughout the four limited-over matches but on the fourth day of the first Test, they showed perhaps the most important of qualities in cricket — resilience, the definitive mark of champions.
At stumps on day three, few were giving the hosts a snowball’s chance in hell. When Sarfraz Ahmed and Asad Shafiq started off on day four where they had left off on day three, it seemed that Bangladesh were in for a humiliating defeat — the chickens had finally come home to roost.
Then Imrul Kayes and Tamim Iqbal — after deputing for the injured Mushfiqur Rahim as wicketkeeper and skipper respectively through nearly two days’ worth of toil and effort — produced an opening stand for the ages. It was counterattacking to the point of being dismissive, it was an emphatic proving of a point, it was as wonderful to watch for the neutrals as it was frustrating for Misbah and his men; it was resilient.
The two left-handers were looking at a deficit of almost 300 in its face. The first ball of the innings smashed into Tamim’s pads. Perhaps the umpire’s finger should have been raised but it wasn’t and a review showed it grazing leg stump; umpire’s call and Tamim survived. The signs did not look good but then these two men decided the signs be damned.
This was a bowling attack that had dismantled number one side Australia not that long ago in conditions not that different from here. But to Tamim and Kayes it didn’t matter — nothing mattered. Not the reputation, not the experience, not the rough marks outside their off stump, not the past head-to-head record, not the heat of Khulna, not the cramps and aches their bodies developed. All that mattered was the herculean task at hand of ending a deficit of 296.
They could have stonewalled their way through this — à la a certain Faf du Plessis — or they could have taken the attack to Pakistan. They took the latter route out, scoring at a run-rate of nearly 4.5 an over, hitting seven sixes and 28 fours between themselves and clocking strike-rates of more than 70 each. In the process, they broke a plethora of records, including the highest-ever partnership by a Bangladeshi pair. It was the kind of stuff maidens sing songs about; and speaking of maidens, Pakistan could only bowl two of them in 61 overs.
At the end of the fourth day’s play, Bangladesh are just 23 runs behind and suddenly, all three results seem possible. Perhaps a win may not be probable for the hosts but with Pakistan, it is certainly possible.
There is still work to be done. One moment of madness or one of genius can undo four hours of superb work; and if there is one team capable of inducing or producing madness and genius in equal measure, then it is the one that Tamim, Kayes et al. face.
But until they take to the field again on day five for 90 overs that may shape Bangladesh’s cricketing future, these two men can afford a smile, enjoy the adulation of the crowd and the standing ovation of their teammates and give themselves a few pats on the back.
May 1, 2015, will long be talked about by Bangladesh fans. It was the day on which even the feared and deadly bowlers of Pakistan could do little but admire the resilience of two defiant Bangladeshi men.