West Indies vs. Bangladesh: Day One of Testing – Five Talking Points

  1. I like test cricket…really?

Jonny Bairstow’s Trent Bridge heroism naturally drew praise from fans and pundits alike, not just for his performance, but for the Test format itself. Social media timelines were flooded with proclamations of undying love for Test match cricket. But when someone says they love Test cricket, what do they really mean? Do they mean, for example, that they yearn for a succession of forward defenses beaten by Kraig Brathwaite against a disciplined but underwhelming attack?

Or maybe it’s just a statement born out of viewing cricket through the prism of the ‘big’ threes. In my mind, the subtext of “I love Test Cricket” is clear; this roughly translates to “the climax of a test is great when England/Australia/India pull off a victory against all odds”.

One of the best parts of Bairstow’s pyrotechnics against New Zealand is how it encourages beginners to get into cricket, perhaps in a more fundamental way than white-ball cricket ever could. . But the inconvenient truth is that Test cricket is rarely sexy, long stretches of play when no discernible action takes place are the norm. The first day of the Antigua Test saw the wickets fall, interspersed with those passages of play when little seems to be happening.

The hope is that at least a few of those who have touted the virtues of the game’s oldest format have tuned in to watch the first day of a test between two of world cricket’s less glamorous teams. Rather than feign interest until something really big happens, which is Kyle Mayers and Nkrumah Bonner chasing an unlikely 4th inning goal.

  1. The breaking stick of Bangladesh

Anyone who has watched Bangladesh’s recent red ball performances shouldn’t be totally surprised by their poor batting display. Against Pakistan last November, Shaheen Afridi and Hasan Ali’s new pair of balls regularly decimated the top order. Against South Africa, they faded in their last two innings, disallowed for 53 and 80 respectively. And against Sri Lanka in their previous test, they recovered dramatically from a top-notch collapse but were unable to pull off the impossible twice.

Surprisingly, the match is not broadcast live by any Bangladeshi TV channels, maybe they already knew what was to come. As good as the bowlers of the West Indies were, it was a procession of ugly dismissals. Playing on balls that could be left alone (Hasan Joy, Mominul), creating a huge gap between the bat and the pad (Shanto), throwing balls to the side of the leg (Tamin and Miraz) and shouldering the arms (Nurul Hassan); they were really the worst way out.

Another characteristic of the Bangladesh stick is the weakness of the tail. After having been 7 wickets less, concluding the innings becomes a formality. Like the test teams of yesteryear, fast bowlers focus solely on bowling rather than batting. In that context, being packed for 103, after being put at bat, on a pitch with patches of live grass on it, was par for the course. If recording 6 ducks in an inning, for the second test in a row, doesn’t cause a serious change, nothing else will.

  1. Kyle Mayers loves Bangladesh

Few people had heard of Kyle Mayers, before he set out to enter the record books in this unlikely Round 4 pursuit in Chittagong last year. His undefeated 210 in his debut was a dream. His subsequent challenge has been to prove that he is not a blockbuster wonder.

He was given the ball in the 15th minute and despite looking innocuous, he had an immediate impact. He claimed a wicket with his 4th ball; Liton Das, in form, fished a ball that only held his line. Mayers completed a double-wicketed maiden when Nurul Hasan Sohan desperately tried to get off the line with a big inswinging delivery.

Sohan found himself in an awkward position, arms outstretched. If he was unaware that referees now show little sympathy for those who are hit off the line, not making a move, he will now be better informed. Despite reviewing the decision, Hawkeye showed “the umpire’s call” for the ball to hit the stump, and another duck was recorded.

Mayer will no doubt play a role at bat too, and in Jason Holder’s absence, his all-around ability has taken on added value.

  1. Shakib watch

Bangladesh’s most acclaimed cricketer, Shakib Al Hasan, has been thrust into the limelight once again, after accepting the Test captaincy ahead of the series. His pre-match press conference, lucid and relaxed, immediately contrasts with the reign of his predecessor. Mominul, despite all his good intentions, possessed neither the charisma but, more importantly, the tactical acumen to be a successful captain. Shakib has been there, done it all, and advertised millions of t-shirts along the way.

Shakib beat at number 6; the strategy was to capitalize on Liton Das’ rich vein of form, he played as a specialist batsman and promoted to number 5. All that planning was rendered useless when the higher order capitulated, with Shakib coming to fall back at 41 to 4. He quickly lost his last two recognized batting partners and intended to throw caution to the wind for most of his innings. Cultivating the strike and trying to collect limits were his main goals. It was rarely pretty but the 51 points he racked up gave the scoreline a slight semblance of respectability.

On the pitch, he was an energetic presence, unafraid to use imaginative catching positions. His willingness to experiment almost paid off immediately, as Mominul, posted specifically at the leg slide for Brathwaite, took a chance that went straight to him. Brathwaite and his team had not yet stood out at the time.

  1. The West Indies go slowly

In response, the West Indies undertook to consolidate their position with the greatest caution. It took them 32 deliveries to break through, and the first limit came on the 14th. At tea they were 15-0 after 15 overs, the run rate only increased slightly in the evening session. Sir Curtly Ambrose, commented, was unhappy with the slow progress, but with so much time left in the game, the tactic was entirely appropriate.

The Bangladesh bowlers showed the discipline that batters lacked, they played tight lines and never made it easy for runs. John Campbell may consider himself a little unlucky to have been knocked down by the Fizz; he played, the ball desperately found a way to flow over the stumps and dislodge a bail. Raymon Reifer probably got the ball of the day though, a peach of a delivery from Ebadot Hossein that sewed up and took its outside edge.

At the stumps, West Indies were only 8 runs behind, with 8 wickets remaining. They are almost totally in control of the fate of this game. Hitting until tea on day two should secure a big lead and a position of ultimate strength. The visitors need early wickets and a West Indies batting slump to even gain a foothold in the game.

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