India’s pink-ball Test debut turns out to be a no contest

The entire ‘city of joy’ went through a pink revolution. Tickets for the first three days were sold out a week before the start of the game. A ‘sporting’ wicket was dished out. Dignitaries from both countries were invited. Overall, the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) left no stone unturned to make the inaugural day-night Test match on Indian soil a memorable occasion for everyone.

Yet, in the end, the huge difference in quality between the two teams turned out to be the primary talking point at Eden Gardens as the historic match did not even last for two and half days. It took just 968 balls for the Indian attack to bowl Bangladesh out twice in this fixture. This was the least number of deliveries a visiting team had ever faced in a Test on Indian soil.

Yes, as per expectations, the pink ball moved a lot more for the fast bowlers than the conventional red one, especially during the much talked about twilight period. Also, the bounce it generated troubled the batsmen with less technical prowess as quite a few Bangladeshi players were hit on the helmet by the Indian pace trio. Couple of them–Liton Das and Nayeem Hasan–were needed to be replaced by concussion substitutes.  However, batters like Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and even Mushfiqur Rahim from the visitor’s camp showed that with better application at the crease, there are runs to be scored even on these challenging conditions.

Earlier, at the start of the game, Bangladesh winning the toss and batting on a true surface seemed like an ideal call, especially when both their openers–Shadman Islam and Imrul Kayes–comfortably negotiated the first 30 minutes. But as soon as Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav adjusted their lengths a little, the Bangladeshi batsmen looked in all sorts of trouble.

On conditions, which were by no mean alien for batters, Mominul Haque’s team was bowled out for 106 in just 30.3 overs. Only three batsmen were able to reach double figures with Shadman Islam top-scoring with 29.

For India, Ishant Sharma used his height perfectly to extract ‘extra lift’ out of the ‘back of good length’ area, which triggered fall shots from many Bangladesh batsmen. In the process, Sharma registered his maiden five-for at home in 12 years. Whereas his two other colleagues in the pace department, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami, backed him up from the other end. Pace dominated the Bangladesh first innings and Kohli only had to use one over of spin, that too for the purpose of changing ends for his fast bowlers.

In reply to Bangladesh’s modest first innings total, the hosts lost their in-form openers early, which added some sort of competitiveness in the proceedings. At 41 for 2, India was in a tricky situation considering the fact that it was batting under lights for the first time in a Test match.

But Kohli and Pujara showed their class with a dominating partnership. With the dew coming in, the ball was getting wet and the Bangladesh pacers lacked discipline. They were bowling far too many boundary balls which released the pressure, if there was any.

Day 2 saw Kohli coasting to his 27th Test century along with a half-century from Rahane, which stamped India’s authority in the match. Bangladesh bowlers did make a comeback with the second new ball, but by that time the hosts already had a lead of more than 200 runs. Also, the other highlight of the day was the one-handed catch Taijul Islam took at the deep fine leg area to dismiss the Indian skipper for 136.

Meanwhile, during the twilight period, when bowlers like Abu Jayed, Al-Amin Hossian and Eabadat Hossain were getting banana swing out the pitch, Kohli decided to declare India’s innings with a lead of 241 runs. And soon after that call, Bangladesh was 13 for 4 in its second innings as Sharma and Yadav were all over their top-order.

At that point a two-day finish to this much-anticipated Test match seemed very much on the cards but thanks to a counter-attacking partnership between Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah, the match was dragged till Day 3.

Unfortunately, after scoring a 41-ball 39, Mahmudullah had to retire hurt due to a hamstring injury. But Rahim continued to fight till the next day with a well composed 74. Towards the end, he was running out of partners and literally had to sacrifice his wicket in an attempt to play an expansive shot.

Mahmudullah was not fit enough to bat again as Bangladesh eventually finished their innings at 195, needing 47 more runs to make India bat again.

Image Credit: Sandipan Banerjee

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