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Mominul, Mushfiqur put Bangladesh in command over Zimbabwe

Mominul Haque and Mushfiqur Rahim take a run Getty Images

Mominul Haque and Mushfiqur Rahim produced centuries of contrasting style but equally weighty substance as Bangladesh took early control of the second Test in Dhaka. With Mominul striking a boundary-laden 161 and Mushfiqur grinding his way to an unbeaten 111 from 231 balls, the pair put on 266 – Bangladesh’s best ever partnership for the fourth wicket in Tests – to completely reverse Zimbabwe’s morning gains and put Bangladesh in charge.

Their stand flattened Zimbabwe, who had had their tails up when the hosts were tottering at 26 for 3 this morning but progressively lost their grip on the game as the partnership grew. Crucially, Zimbabwe not only lost consistency with the ball during the day, but also gifted Mominul three lives as he was dropped on 9, 25 and 120.

Bangladesh had been in dire need of something special from the pair when the top order slipped up against the tight lines and subtle changes of length from Zimbabwe’s new-ball bowlers. Kyle Jarvis and Tendai Chatara gave Liton Das and Imrul Kayes a thorough working over in the first half hour, with Jarvis soon removing both men, while debutant Mohammad Mithun jabbed nervously at a full, wide outswinger from Donald Tiripano to present Brendan Taylor with an easy chance at second slip, his first Test innings ending in a horrendous shot and a four-ball duck.

Bangladesh could have been in even more serious strife when Mominul cut Chatara hard but in the air towards Brian Chari at gully, but the fielder couldn’t quite hold on. Unfazed, Mominul continued to counterattack in style, striking boundaries on both sides of the wicket to lead Bangladesh through to lunch without further bother. If anything, he only struck the ball even more cleanly in the afternoon, and Zimbabwe let their position of strength slip in the face of proactive batting, both batsmen benefiting from erratic lines.

While Mushfiqur was content absorbing any pressure and then dissipating it whenever a bad ball came his way, Mominul took the attack to Zimbabwe’s bowlers, using his feet particularly aggressively to the spinners. Importantly, both batsmen’s boundaries were also punctuated by lots of singles and excellent running that slowly but surely transferred the pressure back onto Zimbabwe in the field and kept the scoreboard ticking over nicely.

Mominul had not passed fifty in eight innings before this one, but he shrugged off indifferent form in the lead-up to this game to bring up his seventh Test hundred from just 150 deliveries in the 55th over, just before tea. So fluent was Mominul’s knock, and so competent Mushfiqur’s backing role, that Bangladesh raced through the second session at more than four-and-a-half runs an over.

Zimbabwe’s attack returned somewhat invigorated in the final session, but Mominul and Mushfiqur dug in once more and Zimbabwe did themselves no favours by dropping Mominul a third time ten overs into the session, an edge off Brandon Mavuta evading both wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva and Hamilton Masakadza at slip.

Mushfiqur rubbed it in with boundaries in consecutive overs from Tiripano and Mavuta, the first taking the partnership beyond 200 and the second nudging him ever closer to his own ton. He reached the landmark off 187 deliveries in the 76th over, and in desperation Zimbabwe captain Masakadza brought himself on for a rare spell of medium-pace.

Yet it seemed nothing could budge the fourth-wicket pair, and every time Zimbabwe managed to string a couple of tight overs together, one or the other of the batting pair broke free with a boundary. Inexplicably, Zimbabwe didn’t take the new ball as soon as it was available, and when Mominul cruised ominously past 150 he seemed set for a double.

But the new ball, when it was eventually taken four overs late, finally did the trick. Driving hard at Chatara, Mominul sent another thick edge flying towards Chari at gully, and this time he held on. Jarvis nipped out nightwatchman Taijul Islam out three overs later, a prudent review reversing umpire Richard Kettleborough’s not out decision, but Mushfiqur lasted through to the end of the day, unbeaten and unbowed, to make sure that Bangladesh claimed the first-day honours. –