9.30 AM Local time in Dhaka: First session of the first Test of an important series. Bangladesh are taking on the Aussies after 11 long years and their captain Mushfiqur Rahim provides them the perfect start by winning a toss on a rank turner. Obviously, with three spinners in the side, Rahim has no hesitation to bat first.
10.15 AM local time in Dhaka: We are just four overs into the game and three top order Bangladeshi batsmen — Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes and Sabbir Rahman are already back in the hut, courtesy, some fierce pace bowling by Pat Cummins. Hosts are tottering at 10 for 3.
In comes world’s number, one ranked all-rounder — Shakib al Hasan, in his 50th Test match.
Of fate, it has been noticed experts questioning Shakib’s credibility as the top all-rounder in the world. Primarily, it is a comparison between Shakib and Ben Stokes.
Well, if one sees the impact in the game with both bat and ball, the Bangladesh southpaw finds himself well ahead in the race. Shakib can get into the team purely as a batsman or a bowler in any condition. Whereas, with all due respect to Stokes, his bowling is not as impactful as his batting.
Shakib’s left-arm spin is considered to be a wicket-taking option for his team, but Stokes cannot be referred as a strike bowler. His medium pace is used to keep a check on opposition’s run rate.
Nevertheless, on Sunday, Shakib once again showcased his all-round utilities to bail Bangladesh out of trouble and put in a relatively commanding position at stumps.
This is the first time in his decade-long international career, Shakib is playing against Australia in a Test match and the stage was set for a heroic when he stepped onto the batting crease to join Tamim Iqbal with his team in all sorts of trouble.
And hasn’t he delivered!
With both Cummins and Josh Hazlewood making the new ball talk, Bangladesh were desperate for a steady partnership. The Shakib-Tamim pair did exactly that. Especially, Shakib fought fire with fire.
He was the aggressor in the partnership. The left-hander had little trouble facing in-form Cummins and Hazlewood. The lengths of the pace duo were not predictable, but that had a little effect on Shakib. With his trade-mark cuts, pulls and drives, he was batting with a lot of freedom.
With two left-handers at the crease, Australian captain Steven Smith introduced his main weapon Nathan Lyon as early as in the seventh over of the day. But Shakib was up to the task. He took the initiative to use his feet and attack him. Soon Ashton Agar was bowling in tandem with Lyon but Shakib literally milked the spin duo with his application as well as dominating batsmanship. The odd ball was spinning viciously or bouncing weirdly out of the good length area but that did not stop him to come down the track and loft the spinners.
It took just 65 balls for Shakib to reach his half-century.
In the second session, Hazlewood bowled a brilliant spell with the old ball, extracting reverse swing out of that rough wicket. While negotiating that spell, Shakib showed a praiseworthy maturity and application. The bowler was targeting his pads, but he did really well to keep his bat ahead in the line. The Aussies, especially Hazlewood tried to break his concentration by saying a thing or two, but those tactics did not work on him.
At one point, it seemed there was a Test hundred for taking, but unfortunately, a sharp spinning delivery eventually got the better of him at 84. Shakib jabbed hard at the ball which flew off the shoulder of the bat to Smith who took a dolly at slip.
Later in the day, Shakib was in the game once again. With just nine overs to bat in the day while replying to host’s first innings score of 260, the Aussies were a little bit shaky and Bangladeshi spinners made the most of this period.
After four steady but unsuccessful overs, Rahim handed over the ball to Shakib in the fifth over, replacing the pacer Shafiul Islam and immediately, things started to happen. Both David Warner and Matt Renshaw were hesitant while tackling his deliveries, which were consistently pitching in the rough area outside their off-stump.
Both Shakib and Mehedi created pressure and the Aussies succumbed to it by losing three wickets within the last 21 balls of the day. Amongst those three, nightwatchman Lyon’s scalp was taken by the left-armer.
First, crucial 155-run stand with Tamim and then an important spell in towards the end of the day — in his landmark game, Shakib is already making an impact.
This is the what is expected from world’s number one all-rounder, isn’t it?