The pitch of Khulna gets slower by the day but runs continued to leak on day four as openers Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes put on the highest partnership in Bangladesh Test cricket history to defy Pakistan as the first Test stands on the brink of a draw going into the final day.
Faced by a daunting task of overcoming a 296-run deficit, both Tamim and Kayes played innings more akin to those in 50-over cricket than Tests and took Bangladesh to 273-0 in 61 overs at 4.47 runs per over; to reduce the deficit to just 23 runs.
Tamim was unbeaten on 138 off 183 balls, while Kayes matched his brute force with graceful elegance to make a 185-ball 132.
The assault was a mixture of exquisite batting combined with flair and very poor bowling from Pakistan, who failed to make any inroads despite the spinners getting a lot of purchase from the track.
Tamim said the advice from his team’s Sri Lankan coach Chandika Hathurusinghe to forget about the scoreboard and enjoy their time out in the middle helped the two openers. “The coach told us not to look at the scoreboard and that helped,” said Tamim. “We just wanted to enjoy the game and when we got a ball to hit, we played our shots.”
Wahab Riaz did try to make things happen by peppering bouncers at Kayes but was unlucky to remain wicketless despite bowling with venom on a placid track.
Junaid Khan and Muhammad Hafeez both conceded over five runs per over, while Wahab and Yasir also went at well over four.
Earlier, Pakistan resumed proceedings at 537-5 with both Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed unbeaten on 51.
Both batsmen tried to score quickly and there was clear urgency in running between the wickets as they took on Bangladesh’s fielders for quick runs.
Despite the duo looking set to score tons, both Asad and Sarfraz were dismissed in their 80s. Sarfraz was the first to go, trying to play an on-drive against debutant medium-pacer Muhammad Shahid but only succeeding in chipping it to mid-on to be dismissed after making a quick 88-ball 85.
That brought about a flurry of wickets, and Pakistan were all out for 628 in 168.4 overs as Shuvagata Hom took two wickets to assist Taijul Islam’s effort of 6-163.
Despite the hard day’s work in the field, Shafiq said Pakistan were confident the Test could still be won. “The first session tomorrow will be important,” he said. “We are still in the game and two or three early wickets in the morning will help us press for victory. The wicket is playing well and both Tamim and Kayes batted really well. However, the complexion of the game can change very quickly if wickets come our way.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2015.
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