Patel strikes thrice to give India edge despite Zakir ton
Bangladesh opener hits hundred on debut, India need four more wickets to win Chattogram Test.
Zakir Hasan scored a hundred on debut but Axar Patel took three wickets as India chipped away at Bangladesh’s second innings to end the fourth day of the opening Test in Chattogram just four wickets away from victory. With captain Shakib Al Hasan and Mehidy Hasan Miraz still at the crease after seeing out 14 overs, Bangladesh need another 241 runs on the final day—highly unlikely given this is the last recognised batting pair.
Chasing 513 is always an improbable task but for the bulk of the day, Bangladesh gave a much-improved account of their batting, not losing a wicket in the morning session and staving off India’s bowling to score 176 for the loss of just three wickets at tea. At the core of this resistance was the 124-run opening partnership—Bangladesh’s first century opening stand against India—between Zakir and Najmul Hossain Shanto as the pitch eased out considerably. Shanto looked solid for his 67 till he fished at a leaving delivery from Umesh Yadav that Rishabh Pant caught on relay after Virat Kohli spilled it at first slip.
Within four overs came the second breakthrough in the form of Yasir Ali who was trying to defend at a good-length ball darted in from around the wicket by Patel but it pitched middle and off to turn away and take his off stump. Litton Das was grafting a promising partnership with Zakir but fell on the stroke of tea, trying to loft Kuldeep Yadav’s googly but failing to clear mid-on. Zakir kept doing good work at the other end till Ravichandran Ashwin got him with a dipping off-break on middle that took a bat-pad and ballooned to Kohli who dived forward at first slip to catch it. Bangladesh still had enough batting to stall India but Patel came unexpectedly to the fore with the second new ball that was taken in the 85th over.
Abrasive subcontinent pitches are often thought to be a prerequisite to spinners doing well but this was a fourth-day pitch that hadn’t aided much turn. And Patel bowls quick, considerably quicker than traditional spinners that prevents him getting much loop or dip. But those stump-to-stump lines and the revolutions he imparts on the ball make it difficult to play Patel across the line, or pre-empt a shot for that matter. Ali was beaten trying to defend Patel’s angle off a 50-over old ball on his front foot. Mushfiqur Rahim’s dismissal was almost a replay of that, only he was on the back foot this time and the delivery was a touch quicker because of the second new ball.
"What really stands out with Axar is the pace that he bowls at first,” India's bowling coach Paras Mhambrey said after the end of play on Saturday. "It is not easy for the batter to step out. Also the angles he bowls. The way he releases the ball, it is kind of very difficult for the batter to (decide to) leave it or play at it. And especially in conditions where the ball is turning a little bit, you have to play at those deliveries. That's what stands out for him.”
But Patel also knows how to tempt the drive. Nurul Hasan fell for that in the same over—a fuller, slightly loopier delivery darting in for Nurul to try and push at but again it spun away for Pant to effect a quick stumping. Bangladesh could have imploded then had it not been for Shakib and Miraz applying themselves well. A faint inside edge had saved Shakib in the 80th over when Patel struck his pads but the Bangladesh captain chose to take the attack to India, hitting Patel for a four and six off the next two deliveries.
It wasn’t an easy day of cricket, neither for the bowlers nor for the batters. Spinners got very little help, Umesh found some reverse but wasn’t lucky, especially in the 87th over when Pant put down Rahim’s catch off him—this was a day that wasn’t dominated by either team. India will still take it, given they had not chosen to enforce the follow-on. That decision inadvertently gave Bangladesh some time to introspect and mend their batting after being shot out for just 150 in the first innings. Zakir’s hundred and a heartening opening stand thus are Bangladesh’s biggest takeaways as India look to be inching towards victory.