Tamim fights but West Indies still favourites

West Indies got it right, subdued at the start of the day and attacking after lunch to amass a massive lead, the only downside being the sight of Darren Bravo lying flat on the ground ruing a missed double-century. Bangladesh did the opposite; they motored along at the start of an improbable chase, not having learnt much from their top-order capitulation in the first innings, and lost early wickets. Though Tamim Iqbal steadied them, after belatedly realising the need for caution, West Indies remain favourites to take the Test with seven wickets to grab on a full day’s play.

Attacking batting makes for entertaining cricket and the Bangladesh line-up is packed with attractive stroke-makers. If there was anything to be learnt from their performance in the first innings, though, it was that sustaining aggression for an extended period of time is a major challenge in Test cricket. The opening seamers Fidel Edwards and Kemar Roach bowled too short often but, despite their poor lengths, the Bangladesh batsmen were only too happy to keep them interested.

The pitch looked far from threatening and showed no major signs of wear and tear – Devendra Bishoo and Marlon Samuels got the odd delivery to turn and bounce sharply but not with enough frequency to send tremors within the Bangladesh camp. Also encouraging for the hosts will be the trend of high scores in the fourth innings at the venue – two scores of over 200 have been chased down with few wickets lost and Bangladesh once scored 413 in a losing cause. Whether Tamim and the middle order can summon the determination to save the game will have many doubters, and remains to be seen.

Sensing early that leaving deliveries outside off wasn’t part of the top-order’s plan, as he’d done early in the first innings where he bagged a five-for, Fidel Edwards persisted with an off-stump line. The presence of two slips and a gully should have prompted circumspection, instead the openers kept those fielders that much more vigilant. Off the first ball of Fidel Edwards’ second over, Tamim slapped one to point where Samuels dropped a straightforward chance. There was hope again when Imrul Kayes crashed him through the covers four balls later. The next ball was in the channel outside off and Kayes couldn’t help pushing at it, and offered a low catch to Kirk Edwards at slip.

The temptation to dole out short stuff continued when Shahriar Nafees upper-cut Fidel Edwards over the slips; Roach was dealt the same way by Tamim, who also survived an inside-edge while pushing away from his body. The introduction of Darren Sammy brought about a change in lengths and Nafees, overcome by an instinct to drive the ball, played a pitched-up delivery straight back to the bowler, who showed sharp reflexes in bending down quickly to take a tough catch.

The arrival of Raqibul Hasan brought with it a semblance of stability to the innings. He shunned aggression, held out one end assuredly, defended well against Sammy who stuck to a tight line and pinched singles off the spinners, working them around the in-field. The solidity rubbed off on Tamim, who toned down considerably and was fortunate to have Raqibul caution him when he appeared to display an incorrigible urge to break free.

Tamim stepped out to Bishoo to launch him over his head for a four and a six, and almost offered a catch to mid-on on the third attempt before a polite reprimand from the other end restored some sense. It was ironic then that Raqibul was almost caught while trying to late-cut a delivery with a slip in place, and was dismissed the very next ball poking at a quicker delivery from Samuels that spun in a hint.

At 124 for 3 with close to an hour left, there was more room for damage but some fluent, and assured, batting from Mushfiqur Rahim together with a much-tempered Tamim saw Bangladesh through to the close. The pair punched gloves in satisfaction at stumps but another daunting day remained ahead of them.

The West Indies batsmen didn’t want any hiccups in the morning and progressed slowly to keep wickets in store for a blast after lunch. Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who eased to a half-century, triggered the acceleration with three fours in a Nasir Hossain over before the break, and Bravo smashed a straight six off the same bowler when play resumed. As he moved closer to a double-ton, Bravo launched Suhrawadi Shuvo into the stands to reach 195. An attempt to get to the landmark with a slog-sweep the next ball ended in failure, personal disappointment and a declaration, as he top-edged a catch to Mushfiqur.

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