At last, the 2nd test victory for Bangladesh, after a long waiting. In the end what was refreshing for the cricket-loving people in the country was that a set of young cricketers under a new leader didn’t succumb to untoward pressure in Kingstown, St. Vincent to bring more trouble for them after their poor showing in the five-day game.
Four years and six months after their first Test win, Bangladesh sealed a historic second victory when they beat West Indies by 95 runs in St Vincent. Bangladesh’s spin twins Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah weaved a tantalising web to consign a weakened West Indies to defeat. The only resistance came from David Bernard, who defied everything thrown at him for 134 balls to remain unbeaten on 52.
The champagne moment arrived at 4.40 pm local time when Shakib, the stand-in captain, nailed last man Tino Best in front with a dipping full toss with only ten overs left in the day. Best put up his bat as if to suggest he had edged it but the finger was up and the Bangladeshi fielders converged in a huddle of joy, soon joined by a limping Mashrafe Mortaza.
It was an enthralling last couple of sessions in a beautiful setting, the Kingstown stadium ringed by the sea. The cricket was almost sub-continental in its elements. Spinners operated with several close-in men prowling near the batsmen waiting for a mistake, and an over-excited chirpy wicketkeeper, Mushfiqur Rahim, applying immense pressure on the batsmen and the umpires with his appeals exclamations. And when the seamers came on, it wasn’t seam but reverse swing on view with the slinging Rubel Hossain and the grunting Shahadat Hossain trying their best to break through.
The plot thickened in the last session, as Bernard found a willing partner in Nikita Miller, suggesting a replay of Cardiff, where England pulled off a great escape on Sunday. But Mohammad Ashraful, who failed in both innings with the bat, stamped his presence on the game by removing Miller, who’d stayed on his back foot to defend stoutly for 54 balls, with one that straightened to get the edge. Mahmudullah returned to trap Ryan Austin and take out Kemar Roach before Shakib sealed the finish.
Until then, Bernard had proved to be a huge headache to the visitors, standing solidly between them and history. His CV describes him as a stylish batsman but today he added grit to the existing grace. Despite the tremendous pressure, he managed to bat with some elegance, using his wrists to ride the turn and bounce on the final-day wicket. While the rest pushed hard at the ball, he played with soft hands and defended confidently.
The contest with Shakib was top-notch, with the bowler shifting angles and trying everything in his arsenal – left-arm breaks, straighter one, arm-ball, round-arm delivery, over and round-the-wicket – to beat a batsman batting in the zone. He moved forward or back, as the length demanded of him, using his wrists to drop the ball down short of the fielders. When the spin noose tightened, he had the courage to play the pressure-relieving strokes like the lofted drives and the cuts. He survived a close lbw shout in the 44th over against Shakib when a ball straightened to hit the pad in front of the stumps but, that blemish apart, he was pretty solid.
However, Shakib and Mahmudullah ensured no other batsmen would deny them a slice of history. Shakib, hailed by the former Australian spinner Kerry O’ Keefe as the “best finger spinner in the world”, turned in a suffocating spell of left-arm spin to relentlessly force the pressure on West Indies. Shakib was slightly slow through the air in the first innings and couldn’t pose too many problems on a slow track. Today, though, he ripped it slightly quicker and immediately looked threatening. He varied his pace, even his angle, by lowering the arm on occasion and, unsurprisingly, was the better of the two spinners, despite finishing with fewer wickets. He occasionally got the ball to straighten and slipped in a few with the arm.
In his first over Shakib harassed Omar Phillips before going past an attempted sweep to trap the batsman. Later, after Darren Sammy and Bernard had added 37 in 11.3 overs, he struck, removing Sammy with a little bit of help from the batsman. Suddenly, against the run of play and just before tea, Sammy jumped out and sliced an ambitious square drive straight to point.
Even when he was not taking wickets, Shakib kept the pressure on and by keeping the batsmen on a leash, allowed Mahmudullah the space to wreak some damage. At one point in the chase the keeper Rahim shouted out to Mahmudullah: “Just keep hitting the right areas; the pitch will take care of the rest”. Mahmudullah did exactly that to pick up three quick wickets after lunch before he returned to take another two in the last session. He increased the pressure with his accuracy and made the batsmen play at every ball. It paid off – and how.
Floyd Reifer, who was tormented by Shakib, showed himself to be a prime lbw candidate. Time and again, that front leg was pressed dangerously across but he managed to stab and jab his way out against Shakib. But Mahmudullah finally broke through with one that landed and straightened to strike that front leg. His next victim was Travis Dowlin, inducing a nervous prod straight to short-leg. Chadwick Walton walked in and started off with a second-ball six but was done in by one that kept low from Mahmudullah and was struck in front of the leg stump.
The slide had started with a moment of madness from the opener Dale Richards who added 20 runs in two overs before he had a brain freeze. He ambled out of the crease after being hit on the pad by Shahadat Hossain, all the while looking anxiously at the umpire for the verdict on the lbw appeal, which went in his favour, but was run out by a direct hit. That allowed Bangladesh the opening and they stormed through.
When the day started, it looked as if Bangladesh were dawdling with the bat and not showing enough urgency to either go for quick runs or leave many overs as possible to bowl out West Indies. However, Darren Sammy took a five-for to bowl them out and that proved a blessing in hindsight as it allowed their spinners enough time to bowl them to a euphoric triumph.