By Our Sports Affairs Bureau
KOLKATA: Bengal Tigers facing Pink Ball attack from Indian side at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Saturday closed the second day’s play at 152 for 6 in second innings while 89 runs still behind while chasing India’s 347/7 in first innings. The visitors were bowled out at 106 in day 1 in the first inning and failed to face Ishant Sharma led Indian pace attack.
At Saturday’s stumps, Bangladesh 106 and 152 for 6 (Rahim 59*, Ishant 4-39) trail India 347 for 9 dec (Kohli 136, Pujara 55, Rahane 51, Al-Amin 3-85) by 89 runs.
The first day-night Test in India threatens to be the shortest in the country. After two days – 916 legal deliveries – India were just four, possibly three, wickets away from recording their longest winning streak: seven. The quickest it has previously taken to achieve an outright result in India is 1028 balls, against Afghanistan in 2018. With that record still up for grabs on day three at Eden Gardens, the match also seems destined to be the joint-leanest for spinners in India – just one wicket to them so far, matching the Golden Jubilee Test of 1981.
It is hard to judge if the conditions were very skewed against the batsmen, because Bangladesh did play quite a few tame shots to get out. Ishant Sharma looked nigh unplayable with his inswing and the odd legcutter, ending the day one wicket short of only his second 10-wicket match haul. He hit Mohammad Mithun with a bouncer, and had that resulted in a concussion, Bangladesh would have had to get Mustafizur Rahman in as a batting-only substitute. Bangladesh still found themselves a player short with Mahmudullah injuring his hamstring trying to complete a quick single.
And oh, by the way, Virat Kohli scored his 27th Test century, his 20th as captain, going past Ricky Ponting and behind only Graeme Smith’s 25. Speaking of captains, a former captain, Mushfiqur Rahim, made sure the match went into day three with a counterattacking fifty after he himself was hit on the head.
The day began with India 68 in the lead, seven wickets in hand and Kohli primed for yet another inevitable-looking Test hundred. Like a matter of routine, Kohli eased his way to a century despite some turn for Taijul Islam, who had come in as a concussion substitute for Nayeem Hasan. The problem with Bangladesh was they were bowling good balls but not good overs. Kohli was alert enough to keep the good ones out, and take risk-free runs off the ordinary ones. Some of the driving of course was gorgeous.
Ajinkya Rahane was unfortunate enough to fall to the odd good ball despite having crossed fifty. Unlike Kohli, Rahane likes to stay back to spin and play a lot of horizontal-bat shots. The kind of delivery that would have beaten Kohli on the forward-defensive took a top edge on the cut. Not that it changed the flow of the game a lot. Nor did the movement with the second new ball. All it did was hasten the end of the Indian innings – declared closed at nine down – to give Bangladesh a possible 44 overs to survive on the second evening.
The way Ishant started, it didn’t look like Bangladesh would last the night. In his first over, he toyed with the outside edge of Shadman Islam, moving closer and closer to the stumps and finally trapping him lbw. Captain Mominul Haque then grabbed a pair by managing to somehow edge a half-volley.
That brought together batsmen with two of the five worst averages in Test cricket in the last three years: Mithun and Imrul Kayes. Mithun soon suffered a sickening blow with an Ishant bouncer following him after pitching. He continued batting after a concussion test but soon played a limp pull to give Umesh Yadav a wicket. Ishant soon drew the seemingly overdue edge from Kayes to leave Bangladesh at 13 for 4.
Dangerous games continued as Rahim received a glancing blow in the head from Yadav. With so many blows to the heads and dropped catches, questions will be, and should be, asked if it had anything to do with the pink ball.
Rahim, though, waved his physio off, raising questions over concussion protocols in cricket. The way he continued to bat it didn’t seem he was suffering from one, though. Mahmudullah, too, batted fluently despite struggles against the short ball. Both of them chose to attack, and they had plenty of opportunity to do so with the aggressive fields in place.
When they took the innings into the 14th over, Mahmudullah and Rahim had put together Bangladesh’s longest partnership of the match. It didn’t stop there. Boundaries kept flowing. Movement died out, India’s lengths became shorter, and the ball kept skidding across the dewy outfield. Mahmudullah, however, had to retire hurt for 39 off 41. The ease with which the two batted, though, begged the question: why weren’t the side’s two best batsmen batting higher and taking more responsibility, especially in the absence of Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal.
Now India were forced to go to spin after only one over of it in the first innings, that too to facilitate a change of ends. R Ashwin immediately produced a chance, but Rahane dropped an easy chance at slip, his fourth off the bowling of Ashwin in this series. Ishant came back to get rid of the reprieved batsman Mehidy Hasan, and just before stumps Yadav ended Taijul’s resistance. India are still on their way to a comfortable win, but Rahim had managed to make them wait for another night.