Tuesday, January 26, 2010

India in charge despite Tamim Iqbal fireworks

Bangladesh 233 and 228 for 3 (Tamim 151, Junaid 55) trail India 544 for 8 dec ( Tendulkar 143, Dravid 111, Dhoni 89, Gambhir 68, Sehwag 56) by 83 runs

Tamim Iqbal unleashed an array of brilliant counterattacking strokes on his way to a splendid 151 as Bangladesh posed an injury-ridden Indian side some searching questions on the third afternoon in Mirpur. Having come to bat 311 runs in arrears, Tamim was severe on pace and spin alike as Bangladesh stormed past 200 with just one wicket down. Junaid Siddique provided a solid 55 at the other end and their record partnership was worth 200 when Zaheer Khan broke through just before stumps. And reverse swing was once again the key factor as Tamim too feathered one behind in the day's penultimate over.

India had declared at their lunch score of 544 for 8, after MS Dhoni's search for a century was ended by a smart stumping from Mushfiqur Rahim, but any hopes of a quick finish were blown away by the ferocity of Tamim's onslaught. He started off by steering Zaheer through the slip cordon for four and the loss of Imrul Kayes - he mistimed one to cover after being struck by a nasty bouncer - did nothing to hamper his progress. Ishant Sharma was slashed over slip and pulled for four, while Zaheer found his slower ball clouted down the ground. Pragyan Ojha was greeted with a saunter down the track and heave for four, and a deft paddle took him to 50 from just 49 balls.

Harbhajan Singh was the most economical of the bowlers on view, but even he wasn't spared, with Tamim swinging a four and a six over midwicket. The six brought up the hundred of the innings, and a lovely on-drive off Ishant followed. With Junaid clipping some neat strokes through midwicket, the partnership was worth 99 by tea. There was no respite for the Indians after the break either, with Tamim hitting Ojha out of the attack with two fours and a six slugged over midwicket.

A pull to fine leg off Zaheer took him to a hundred from just 101 balls, and he celebrated with two imperious straight drives. Harbhajan was then smeared through the covers twice, and sent a fair distance over long-on for six. The only blot came after he had made 138, an ugly heave off Virender Sehwag that Sachin Tendulkar couldn't quite latch on to at midwicket. He injured himself in the attempt and left the field, and India spent the final hour with the spinners bowling mostly wide of off stump in an attempt to entice the reckless stroke. It was Zaheer that finally gave Dhoni something to smile about, with Siddique getting a faint edge as he attempted to drive.

Earlier, India added 85 to their overnight total, with Dhoni's 89 quite similar in character to the innings he played against Sri Lanka at the Brabourne Stadium in December. With Rahul Dravid just discharged from hospital and about to head back to India, and Yuvraj Singh nursing an injured ligament in his left hand, India's batting resources were depleted, but with Bangladesh adopting confused tactics against the lower order, Dhoni was able to combine watchfulness with some typically brutal strokeplay.

His intentions had been clear when play resumed, with Shafiul Islam clubbed for a one-handed four over midwicket. And though Zaheer fell, miscuing a hook to fine leg, Dhoni was undaunted, walloping Shakib Al Hasan over long-off for six. By then, he had already changed his bat, and a wide offering from Shafiul was soon carved through the offside for four more.

Shahadat Hossain, who had troubled some of the top order with pace and bounce, was especially disappointing, with even Ishant putting loose deliveries away for boundaries. Dhoni combined clever deflections with powerful cleaves, and a loft over midwicket off Rubel Hossain took him to his half-century from 84 balls.

Ishant eventually edged Mohammad Ashraful behind, but the Bangladeshi ordeal was far from over. With a landmark in sight, Dhoni shielded Ojha and targeted the wayward balls. Mahmudullah was thumped over cover for four and then over wide long-on for six and with Ashraful's legspin also not making a dent, it was a depressing morning for the hosts. Fortunately for the vociferous crowd, Tamim's Catherine-wheel shotmaking changed the mood completely after lunch.

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