Had this been a Twenty20 match, R Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh would have been lauded as showstoppers. But in a Test match, six overs in tandem merely means one-fifth of a session. Still, it hinted at what the off-spinners could have achieved had rain not interrupted the match for the fourth straight day.
In six overs, the duo conceded just nine runs, bowled two maidens and took two wickets that made Bangladesh appear shaky at 111/3 from 108/1 when weather intervened on Day 4 of the one-off Test. These are good figures in an innings that saw Bangladesh score at nearly four runs per over.
But that’s just the statistical part. While Ashwin once again proved there is more to him than the quicker variations, Harbhajan showed he can quickly get his act together, and more importantly, take wickets. Together, they underlined the phrase ‘hunting in pairs’. However, that had to wait till the 25th over when Ashwin joined Harbhajan from the other end.
Not in tandem
Later, Shikhar Dhawan said they wanted to test the pace bowlers with the new ball. Ashwin, expectedly, was given first use of the ball with Ishant Sharma. Given an attacking field, Ashwin bowled quicker through the air to start with but with time began to flight more and extract turn. It gave Ashwin his first wicket after Tamim Iqbal was beaten trying to drive a ball which dipped and spun sharply, Wriddhiman Saha dislodging the bails in a flash.
Harbhajan Singh got a wicket in Test cricket after a gap of two years. The senior India off-spinner bowled well towards the end of the day's play. (AFP Photo)
On the money
Harbhajan’s chance came in the 17th over by when the ball was scuffed up a fair bit. He was on the money from the first ball, being slow in the air and angling into the off stump of left-hander Imrul Kayes. What was turning out to be a good over though was spoiled in the last ball, short and wide and cut to point boundary.
The story was repeated in his next two overs--- five good deliveries followed by boundaries hit by Kayes.
With a boundary finally avoided in his fourth over, Harbhajan’s confidence soared. He became better once Ashwin joined him from the other end. By then, Ashwin was almost unplayable, bowling two consecutive maidens. Runs dried up and Bangladesh were looking for a way out, allowing Harbhajan to cash in.
Again hit for a boundary by Kayes, Harbhajan redeemed himself two balls later. This one dipped on Mominul Haque who couldn’t reach to the pitch of the ball but still went for a hoick.
The ball flew off the edge of the bat to Umesh Yadav at mid-off, giving Harbhajan his first Test wicket after two years. Ashwin later dismissed Mushfiqur Rahim, but Harbhajan looked no less threatening. This being virtually a selection match for future Tests, Harbhajan would want more of that belief. He still has a day to get there.