India inch closer to Chattogram success despite Zakir Hasan resistance

Bangladesh 150 and 272 for 6 (Zakir 100, Shanto 67, Shakib 40*, Axar 3-50) need another 241 runs to beat India 404 and 258 for 2 dec

Axar Patel helped India inch closer towards clinching the first Test in Chattogram, striking twice with the second new ball on the fourth evening to get rid of Mushfiqur Rahim and Nurul Hasan in the space of six deliveries. Debutant Zakir Hasan, who led Bangladesh’s defiance on the day, had fallen for a fighting 100 prior to that, when he inside-edged on to his pad – the ball popped up to Virat Kohli at slip, with R Ashwin finally adding to his wickets’ column.

Shakib Al Hasan provided entertainment late in the day to end unbeaten on 40, having swung his bat to loft, swipe and slash the spinners, but by stumps Bangladesh still needed 241 while India needed four wickets.

The evening session had begun with Bangladesh three down, and Zakir and Mushfiqur at the crease. The left-right combination didn’t mind attacking the spinners, piling up 31 runs – including four fours and a six – off the first seven overs after resumption, with Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav and Axar in operation.

That phase featured a confident straight loft by Zakir to dispatch Kuldeep for six, and a sweep behind the wicket off Axar to get to his century off 219 balls. His patience, concentration and application on a pitch with turn and bounce – and against a highly skilful attack in his very first Test – stood out.

India kept attacking with a bunch of close-in fielders surrounding the batters each time the spinners bowled. In the 80th over, they were a tad unlucky as Shakib was hit in front by Axar and India lost their review, with replays showing a faint inside edge. To add to that, Shakib deposited Axar for four and six off the next two balls.

The new ball wasn’t taken until the 85th over and right away the fresh, hard ball started playing tricks. Mushfiqur was rapped on the glove when Axar got some extra bounce from a full delivery, which brought the physio onto the park.

The next over, India changed up the pace, bringing on Umesh Yadav, and again Bangladesh had a touch of luck go their way. Pant dropped Mushfiqur second ball, when an outside edge flew to his right. Five balls later, Axar turned one past his outside edge to leave the stumps splattered and India finally had their wicket.

New batter Nurul edged the first ball he faced for three, but two deliveries later was stumped by Pant, pushing at a ball turning past his outside edge. Now, India smelled victory.

But Shakib and Mehidy Hasan Miraz batted out the next 14 overs to see out the day, add 34 runs and frustrate India. They’d had their fair share of frustration earlier in the day, as well.

Najmul Hossain Shanto and Zakir had added 124 – Bangladesh’s first century opening stand in Tests against India – to start the improbable chase of 513, as the visiting bowlers looked clueless on a pitch that seemed to have eased up a bit on the fourth morning. Shanto, who already had two first-ball ducks in three innings against India on this tour, made a solid 67, before Umesh had him caught behind by Pant, who grabbed the chance on the relay after Kohli at first slip had failed to latch on.

Yasir Ali came in at No. 3, and Axar got his first wicket soon after when he darted in a good-length ball from around the wicket, pitched it on middle and off, and turned it away to crash into off stump. The quick strikes meant there was some repair work to do, but Litton Das gave it away; looking to keep the scoreboard ticking along but tied down by Kuldeep’s tight lines, he lofted and was caught by a deep-ish mid-on.

Despite all that, nothing seemed to disturb Zakir, who kept grinding and grafting until Ashwin struck for the first time in the match. After a wicketless first session, India hit back three times in the afternoon and then got closer to a 1-0 lead in the evening. Bangladesh take with them the positives of Zakir’s calmness under pressure and Shanto’s return to form from the fourth day’s play.

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