Cheteshwar Pujara and Shreyas Iyer steer India out of trouble

India 278 for 6 (Pujara 90, Iyer 82*, Taijul 3-84, Mehidy 2-71) vs Bangladesh

Half-centuries from Cheteshwar Pujara and Shreyas Iyer gave India the advantage on the opening day of the first Test in Chattogram, but two late wickets meant the door is still open for Bangladesh to script a comeback.

At one point, India were struggling at 48 for 3 but first Pujara and Rishabh Pant, and then Pujara and Iyer stitched together crucial partnerships to help them reach 278 for 6 at stumps. Pujara fell ten short of what would have been his first Test hundred since January 2019, while Iyer finished the day unbeaten on 82.

Both Pujara and Iyer benefitted from the dropped catches as well. Pujara was on 12 when Nurul Hasan put him down off the bowling of Ebadot Hossain. That was on the second ball after lunch, when Pujara drove a full delivery only to edge it low to the right of the wicketkeeper. Nurul, though, couldn’t hold on to the chance.

Iyer got two reprieves. On 30, Nurul grassed a chance off Shakib Al Hasan. Then on 67, Ebadot put down a straightforward catch at deep midwicket, Mehidy Hasan Miraz being the unlucky bowler this time.

Iyer had another stroke of luck on 77. Ebadot’s inducker beat his inside edge and brushed the off stump but the bails didn’t dislodge.

In the morning, when India opted to bat, Bangladesh captain Shakib hoped the grass cover would help his seamers pick up early wickets. But the pitch offered little assistance to the fast bowlers, forcing Shakib to bring himself on as early as the sixth over.

The Bangladesh seamers, Ebadot and Khaled Ahmed, didn’t help their cause either by hardly bowling anything full. Some of the balls did keep low but they were all well outside off. Shakib tried playing around with the field, deploying a leg slip, a catching short midwicket, and a catching cover at various times but to no avail.

It was Taijul Islam who eventually broke through. At the stroke of the first hour, Shubman Gill tried to lap-sweep him but the ball just dropped on him, inducing a top edge. Yasir Ali, anticipating the shot, ran around to his left from first slip and gobbled it up.

KL Rahul fell soon after, chopping Khaled onto his stumps. In the next over, Virat Kohli played back to a length ball from Taijul that spun past his outside edge and trapped him lbw as he looked to work the ball into the leg side. That meant India, who had looked in full control at 41 for no loss, were all of sudden in a spot of bother.

Pujara and Pant, batting in their contrasting styles, bailed them out. They added 64 off just 72 balls for the fourth wicket before Mehidy broke their stand. Having hit the previous ball for a six, his 50th in Test cricket, Pant went back in an attempt to steer Mehidy behind point. The ball, though, kept coming in with the arm to cramp him. The result was a bottom edge that bounced off the pitch to dislodge the off bail, and Pant walked back for a 45-ball 46.

Iyer started tentatively, edging his first ball, against Mehidy, just past the slip fielder. Then Ebadot beat both his edges in the same over. But as the innings progressed, he started looking more and more comfortable and wasn’t afraid to take the aerial route against spinners.

Pujara, meanwhile, used his feet against the spinners to skip down the track regularly, even if he didn’t look in complete control all the time. He brought up his half-century with a four off Taijul and celebrated the occasion with another boundary off the next ball. Iyer followed him to the landmark, also with a boundary.

With both batters looking set for their hundreds, Bangladesh took the new ball as soon as it became available. And with that came the breakthrough. Taijul, who had beaten the outside edge of both Pujara and Iyer multiple times, finally got his reward when he got yet another one to spin past Pujara’s outside edge. This time the ball pinged the off stump to end the 149-run stand.

Axar Patel survived a bat-pad appeal when Bangladesh didn’t opt for the review but the replay showed a clear inside edge. That didn’t hurt Bangladesh though, with Mehidy trapping him lbw on the last ball of the day to keep his side in the contest.

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