Not all matches are won in the first innings. But very many are lost. It is this threat that Bangladesh has to guard against to prevent a clean sweep when it welcomes India to the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium for the second and final Test from Thursday.
In Chattogram, the visitors were 48 for three in the first innings, only to be let off the hook. Bangladesh then collapsed for 150 in its opening essay to hand India the initiative, which K.L. Rahul & Co. capitalised on to record a thumping 188-run victory.
In contrast to the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium wicket, which eased up for batting after a tricky first day, the one in Mirpur is expected to be more spin-friendly. South African legend Allan Donald, who is the hosts’ fast-bowling coach, confirmed the same on match-eve, and even gladdened a few local hearts with the news that skipper Shakib Al Hasan was fit to resume his all-rounder duties.
The 35-year-old bowled just 12 overs of his left-arm spin in the first Test because of a rib injury, and the hope is for him to combine well with the in-form Taijul Islam. The Indian nets, predictably, had a fair share of left-arm spin, with Kuldeep Yadav and a local net bowler feeding the batters enough.
Formidable batting line-up
But regardless of the strength of the Bangladesh bowling – which will also be bolstered by speedster Taskin Ahmed’s return – the Indian batting line-up remains formidable. That it managed to win the first Test without two of its best batters in Rahul and Virat Kohli getting big runs is enough evidence that there are higher gears it can shift into.
Rohit Sharma’s unavailability means Shubman Gill will get a chance to build on his hugely satisfying century, albeit on what is expected to be a more testing wicket. That Shreyas Iyer, arguably India’s best player of spin, is in fine fettle after an excellent, match-turning 86 should give confidence.
Skipper Rahul had a scare when he had to stop batting during Wednesday’s training after being hit on his right hand off a throwdown. He winced in pain, dropped the bat and shook his hand vigorously and was soon attended to by the medical staff. But batting coach Vikram Rathour, in his pre-match media briefing, said that it didn’t “look serious.”
Abhimanyu Easwaran is the reserve opener should Rahul not be able to play, and the Bengal batter was active in the nets, under the watchful eyes of both Rahul Dravid and Paras Mhambrey.
The bowling will pick itself, with the spin trio of R. Ashwin, Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav expected to do a bulk of the heavy lifting as India seeks vital World Test Championship points. Bangladesh can ill-afford the kind of impatience it displayed in the first innings of the opening Test.
It can take a leaf out of Zakir Hasan’s notebook, whose century on debut was a top-draw performance. But Zakir himself will be a pursued man now and a sophomore’s test is the toughest there is.
The teams (from): India: K.L. Rahul (Capt.), Cheteshwar Pujara (Vice-Capt.), Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, K.S. Bharat, R. Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Mohd. Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Saurabh Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat.
Bangladesh: Shakib Al Hasan (Capt.), Litton Das (Vice-Capt.), Mahmudul Hasan, Najmul Hossain, Mominul Haque, Yasir Ali, Mushfiqur Rahim, Nurul Hasan, Mehidy Hasan, Taijul Islam, Khaled Ahmed, Taskin Ahmed, Zakir Hasan, Rejaur Rahman Raja, Nasum Ahmed.
Umpires: Chris Brown & SIS Saikat
TV Umpire: Michael Gough
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle
Match starts at 9 a.m. IST