“Hence, any day, I will prefer a pitch like Mirpur or the one we have seen during the recent South Africa vs India Test match in Cape Town over the wickets which produce dull-draws, such as, the Chittagong one or the MCG wicket for the last Boxing-day Ashes Test match”.
Following a run feast on that non-responsive surface at Chittagong in the series opener, it has been a contrasting Day 1 in the second Test between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at Mirpur today (February 8). In the entire first Test, a total of 1,533 runs were scored by the batting units, losing just 24 wickets. Compared to that, on that turner at Mirpur bowlers have had a sigh of relief as 14 wickets have fallen on opening day at the expense of just 278 runs.
Severe turn, shaky-looking batsmen, fielders around the bat and a hail of dismissals — these scenes are nothing new at Mirpur. On similar dustbowls, the Tigers in recent years had registered those famous Test victories against England and Australia. Following the boring draw at Chittagong, a lot of people had anticipated a bowling friendly track to add some necessary spice in the two-Test series.
And the 22-yard at Mirpur hasn’t disappointed at all.
Before the start of the game, the brownish looking pitch seemed a tailor-made one for the slow bowlers and noticing that both sides went in with a lone pacer in their respective line-ups.
Wickets like these suit the strength of Bangladesh as here their spinners can come into the game early and that is what exactly happened on Thursday after Sri Lankan won a crucial toss and decided to bat first.
Stand-in Bangladesh skipper Mahmudullah made his intentions quite clear early in the day when he started proceedings with spin from both ends. Mehidy Hasan Miraz and Abdur Razzak, who is playing his first Test in four years, took the new ball and had immediate assistance from the track.
The Sri Lankan batting, which piled up a score 713 for 9 at Chittagong and batted for 199.3 overs, seemed a like a fish out of the water while tackling the Bangladeshi spinners at Mirpur. Apart from the half-centuries from Kusal Mendis and Roshen Silva followed by a gutsy 31 by Dilruwan Perera, there was hardly any resistance from their batsmen.
Surprisingly, Mehedi remained wicketless in the innings, but veteran Razzak, picked up a four-wicket haul, as did Taijul Islam, to bowl Sri Lanka out for 222 in just 65.3 overs. With his variations and slower ones, Mustafizur Rahman also joined the party towards the end and bagged a couple of wickets.
However, one could say, after being reduced to 110 for 6, it has been a terrific recovery by the visitors to cross the 200-run mark and following their effort with the ball in the third session, the value of these bonus runs towards the end of their innings, increases further.
After the commendable job with the ball, Bangladesh needed to survive 22 overs to end the day on a high note. Well, unfortunately for them, things did not go according to their plan, courtesy to some excellent collective bowling effort by Suranga Lakmal and Co. as well as a casual run-out by Mominul Haque, the twin-centurion of the last Test.
Bangladesh eventually finished the day at 56 for 4, still trailing by 166 runs.
From our previous experiences at Mirpur, we can safely say that nothing is certain on tracks such as this. However, if Bangladesh are to give themselves a decent chance of winning this fixture as well as the series, a first-innings lead is almost imperative here. Remember, they will have to bat last on that pitch. And against the likes of Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, and Akila Dananjaya batting in the fourth innings will not be pretty for the hosts, who are missing their Test skipper and one of the top all-rounders in the world, Shakib Al Hasan, in this game.
In hindsight, from a neutral point of view, following the five days of boredom at Chittagong, this action-packed Mirpur Test has come as a breath of fresh air. In this era of premier leagues and growing stature of white-ball cricket, Test cricket needs action to attract the common fans and stakeholders, including the broadcasters.
Hence, any day, I will prefer a pitch like Mirpur or the one we have seen during the recent South Africa vs India Test match in Cape Town over the wickets which produce dull-draws, such as, the Chittagong one or the MCG wicket for the last Boxing-day Ashes Test match.