Mehedi Hasan bagged a five-wicket haul on his Test debut to leave the first Test between Bangladesh and England tantalisingly poised at stumps on the opening day of the the two-match series at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong on Thursday (October 20). For England, Moeen Ali (68) and Jonny Bairstow (52) teamed up to share a crucial stand of 88 for the sixth wicket to hustle the visitors to 258 for 7 at close of play.
With Moeen and Bairstow looking in ominous touch, Mushfiqur Rahim turned to Hasan after Tea and he didn’t disappoint his captain by nipping out the former. The offspinner extracted turn from round the wicket to elicit the outside edge and snare Moeen’s scalp.
Bairstow, however, wore the bowlers down and whenever the spinners dragged it short or bowled too full, took a heavy toll of it. He was backed up by Chris Woakes (36 not out) as the duo piled on the runs in the final session.
Just in the nick of time, Hasan bowled a peach of a delivery to castle Bairstow. He pitched it in that hallowed channel just outside the off-stump and the subsequent turn helped him to clean up the right-hander. Incidentally, The 18-year-old became the youngest cricketer from Bangladesh to end up with a five-fer on Test debut. Adil Rashid (5 not out) and Woakes then gritted it out to navigate Hasan’s threat for the reminder of the day.
The first two sessions of the day, saw plenty of twists and turns. Right after the Lunch break, Bangladesh’s spinners strangulated the opposition batsmen with clever flight and guile. Joe Root, who looked by far England’s best batsman before Lunch, lasted just a couple of deliveries after the break.
Hasan, England’s chief tormentor, got one to straighten from round the wicket and Root poked at it to be caught at first slip. Ben Stokes (18) tried to break the shackles, and with a dash of inventiveness lofted Shakib Al Hasan over the stands at midwicket. Shakib, however, had the last laugh as he prised the aggressive all-rounder in the 41st over.
For a brief period, Stokes negotiated the spinners off the back foot. Shakib then invited Stokes to prod forward and sneaked one through the gap between bat and pad to rattle the stumps.
Moeen, who had to go through the agony of surviving five reviews, then shared an enterprising partnership with Bairstow to shore up the innings. Moeen alternated between the chords of solid defence and measured judgment outside off, while Bairstow used his strong wrists to cut, pull and whip the spinners. Moeen occasionally also ventured out of the crease to loft the spinners. After leading a rather charmed life, Moeen reached his fifty in style with a nicely timed punch off Kamrul Islam Rabbi.
Bangladesh could have picked another wicket before the Tea break, but Sabbir Rahman at slip fluffed a simple chance off Taijul Islam in the 49th over. It wasn’t just England’s batsmen who found themselves under pressure, as Kumar Dharmasena, the on-field umpire, had to overturn three leg before decisions against Moeen.
At the start of the day, Hasan ran through the cream of England’s top order to leave them in a spot of bother before Root’s resolute graft steered the visitors to Lunch. Hasan struck to the tried and tested method of using the offbreak, sprinkled with the slider, to cast a spell on the English batsmen. Ben Duckett (14), the England debutant, had a few issues against the arm ball and eventually, was dislodged by the offspinner.
Alastair Cook (4), who now holds the record as the most capped Englishman in the traditional format, was the next one to be dismissed. It was a freakish dismissal as the England captain attempted to play the sweep, but the ball hit his forearm and then back of the bat before shattering the leg stump. Gary Ballance (1) didn’t survive for long either as he was adjudged leg before off Mehedi’s bowling.
It was at that crucial juncture of the match, Root calmed down the nerves in the tourists’ camp. Root, England’s best batsman, attired himself quickly to the testing conditions. The fleet-footed right-hander covered for the turn to bisect the gaps with needlepoint precision.
Moeen, his partner at the other end, had a few anxious moments. Incidentally, if Hasan had taken the review for leg before in the 16th over, Moeen, too, would have been dismissed as replays indicated that the ball would have clattered the leg-stump.
Four of the last six Tests have ended in draws at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong. However, this pitch is assisting the spinners quite a bit and a total of around 300 in the first innings might turn out to be a match-winning score.
Brief Scores: England 258/7 (Moeen Ali 68, Jonny Bairstow 52; Mehedi Hasan 5-64) vs Bangladesh.