Things started happening rather suddenly in the last hour of the fourth evening at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Sunday (February 12). The pitch, which had shown little sign of life for the best part of 11 sessions prior to that, seemed to have changed after tea, if only just. But that was enough for Ravindra Jadeja to get the ball to grip, and turn as well in R Ashwin’s case, and after a long period of save-the-Test dourness, Bangladesh began to unravel, leaving the one-off Test tilted heavily in India’s favour with one day left to play.
Chasing 459 for an unlikely victory after India had opted against enforcing the follow-on — despite stopping Bangladesh at 388, 299 runs behind — and then declared on 159 for 4 after scoring at almost 5.5 an over, Bangladesh did decently for the longest time. But then came the two-wicket burst, and Bangladesh ended on 103 for 3, with just seven wickets in hand and a whole day to negotiate.
Ashwin, who became the fastest in Test history to 250 wickets (in his 45th Test) when he ended the Bangladesh first innings with centurion Mushfiqur Rahim’s wicket, struck early in the chase. Tamim Iqbal, a bit fidgety at the crease, inside-edged one on to his pads for the ball to lob to Virat Kohli at gully. The original decision was not out but Kohli took a rare correct call on the DRS and Tamim was back in the sixth over, the scoreboard reading 11 for 1.
That’s when Soumya Sarkar and Mominul Haque got together to keep the Indians at bay, the tall opener solid in defence but excellent with his drives between point and cover and the little No. 3 largely in dead-bat mode. The two stuck it out together for over an hour, but then Jadeja had Sarkar nicking one to Ajinkya Rahane at first slip, and the star slipper took a smart one-handed catch low to his right. Sarkar scored 42 in 66 balls with seven fours. One wicket led to another, as Mominul fell 13 balls later, Ashwin getting him to edge to Rahane with one that turned sharply. Mominul’s 27 took 63 balls and included three fours.
Mahmudullah, under pressure after a series of poor outings, and Shakib Al Hasan, who had a verdict for a catch at forward short-leg overturned on review along the way, then took their team to the close of play unbeaten on 9 and 21 respectively.
Before all that, the Indian second innings started before lunch for an over but took off in proper earnest only after the break. Having opted to try and bat Bangladesh out of the match, India had to score fast to leave enough time to bowl the opposition.
Taskin Ahmed ensured the start was far from ideal, getting both M Vijay and KL Rahul to edge short and wide deliveries to Rahim behind the stumps. Seeing Cheteshwar Pujara walk in after that instead of one of the quicker scorers was surprising, but this was a different Pujara, one that went against the grain for the team’s cause. With Kohli, as belligerent as one would expect, Pujara brought his big-hitting bat out and motored on at a run-a-ball or thereabouts. He even hooked Taskin for a six over long-on much to the delight of his partner, who pumped his fists in excitement at the uncharacteristic stroke from the usually restrained Pujara.
So it went on, the batsmen finding the boundary with great frequency and the 25,000-strong crowd having a grand time, till Kohli stepped out and whipped Shakib to Mahmudullah at midwicket to walk back for a 40-ball 38. But Rahane kept up the good work in collaboration with Pujara. He was cross-batted at times, was dropped by Shakib off his own bowling when he smacked back a full toss, and sent Mehedi Hasan soaring over midwicket for six too before going across the line to Shakib, missing altogether, and losing middle stump. The 28 in 35 balls, though, was again just what the team-in-a-hurry needed.
Jadeja then ensured that the team’s plan, of stretching the lead past 450 by tea, went on schedule. A dab to cover first ball off Shakib was followed by a four over midwicket, which Mehedi really should have caught, and a brutal six over long-on. At tea, with Pujara on 54 from 58, and Jadeja on 16 from 10, Kohli left it to his bowlers to complete the job.
Earlier, the action started in the first over of the day itself, when Bhuvneshwar Kumar got the fourth delivery to tail in beautifully, cutting an arc almost. It started outside off stump and moved in late to hit leg, and Mehedi, who was so impressive in getting to his maiden Test half-century on the third evening, wasn’t good enough to deal with it. He had to walk back, but after having done himself proud with 51, his overnight score, in 107 balls with ten fours.
It wasn’t the beginning to the day Rahim would have wanted, especially with his team still some distance away from the follow-on mark and his own fifth Test century 19 runs adrift. He got there in the end, but after Taijul Islam came and went after hopping around against a barrage of bouncers. Taijul fell protecting his face to another Umesh Yadav bouncer and popping a catch to Wriddhiman Saha – the paceman’s third and final wicket.
With Taskin and Kamrul Islam Rabbi for company, Rahim had to get a move on, and he did, hooking Ishant Sharma for the first six of the Bangladesh innings, and then flicking Umesh to deep fine-leg, where Ishant got into a mad tangle and let the ball through for four. That brought up the century for Rahim, an outstanding effort, made even more special because of the situation he had walked into on the third day, and he went on, picking Ashwin off consecutive balls for four and six.
Looking a bit desperate as the lead looked like falling behind 300 – which it did finally – Kohli took two more wrong DRS calls, but Jadeja took care of Taskin eventually and Ashwin wrapped things up with Rahim’s scalp, Saha taking an excellent catch off the gloves as Rahim attempted to sweep. That made him the fastest to the 250-wicket milestone ahead of Dennis Lillee’s mark of 48 Tests. Both Ashwin and Jadeja had two wickets to their name.
As for Rahim, his vigil ended 381 and 262 balls after he had started, the 127 an excellent number to have against his name in a historic first Test for Bangladesh in India.