Pakistan in charge despite Shakib’s six-for

Shakib’s importance to the outcome of the match was highlighted by Pakistan’s jubilant reaction to his dismissal late in the day – in the exuberance of the celebration, Younis Khan was pushed over by one of his team-mates.

Pakistan’s batsmen made unrelenting progress in the first half of the day – Adnan Akmal reached his maiden Test half-century and Misbah-ul-Haq completed his seventh Test fifty of the year to stretch the first-innings lead to a healthy 132. In contrast, the Bangladesh batting’s perennial struggle to put up strong performances in both innings of a Test continued, and they slid to 114 for 5 by close.

It was a typical beginning to the innings. Tamim Iqbal started as though it was a Twenty20, cracking five boundaries in his 21 before falling in the final over before tea. It was a dodgy decision as he was ruled out after the ball ricocheted off his helmet to slip. He stood around making his displeasure clear, and pointing to the helmet to indicate where the ball hit him, actions which are likely to earn him a meeting with the match referee.

To make it worse, off the next ball, Umar Gul removed Shahriar Nafees lbw for a golden duck to spark thoughts of a familiar top order collapse. Like the light in Mirpur, Bangladesh’s chances also began to fade early.

Gul got the new ball to jag around, and though he couldn’t complete the hat-trick after tea, he thoroughly examined the batsmen’s technique outside off. Aizaz Cheema wasn’t as incisive early on, but returned to take two big wickets – Mahmudullah and Shakib. Both dismissals were due to a long-standing problem with the Bangladesh batting – poor shot selection. Mahmudullah looked to flatbat a delivery that was well outside off, top edging it to deep point and Shakib steered a catch to backward point.

One of the other reasons for the home side’s troubles at the Test level is the lack of quality medium-pacers, and they were unimpressive again on the fourth morning. That prompted Mushfiqur Rahim to give marathon spells to the left-arm spin pair of Elias Sunny and Shakib. Sunny bowled through the entire morning session, while Shakib had sent down a 23-over spell by the time Pakistan’s innings ended.

Comfortably placed at 292 for 3 overnight, Pakistan were expected to be more adventurous on the fourth morning to set up a declaration, but the dismissal of Younis in the second over of the day led to a more measured approach. Sunny struck in his first over, getting the ball to jump and turn, and Younis nicked it to the wicketkeeper as he looked to defend.

Neither Misbah nor Asad Shafiq are known for an aggressive brand of batting, and there was plenty of caution in their partnership early on. Only three runs were scored in the first seven overs of the day, before Misbah broke free with a couple of boundaries in a Nazmul Hossain over. Shafiq also got going with consecutive fours off Shahadat Hossain, but once Sunny and Shakib started to bowl in tandem, the run flow subsided again.

Misbah, to his credit, attempted to push the tempo with an array of sweeps – delicate paddles from outside off, reverse-sweeps and powerful conventional ones to try and throw the spinners’ off their line and length. The partnership swelled past 50, before Shakib finally had reward for his tight bowling – Misbah falling to the sweep, top-edging to slip.

The Bangladesh fielding was again below par: Robiul Islam shelled a simple chance at mid-on, Mahmudullah dropped another at slip and there was another let down at midwicket by Sunny.

Bangladesh’s spirits were lifted when Shafiq was given a tight lbw appeal, but Abdur Rehman and Akmal played a series of strokes to take the lead close to 100. Rehman then fell to a catch at slip, and the rest of the tail was mopped up by Shakib.

As if a century to rescue the team from 43 for 4, and then scooping up six wickets wasn’t enough, Shakib was expected to prop Bangladesh up with the bat in the second innings as well. He wasn’t able to, leaving Bangladesh needing something of a miracle to save the Test on a track where Pakistan’s potent spin attack was getting plenty of help.

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