KHULNA — Bangladesh’s pre-series claims of superiority in batting and bowling almost lost relevance in Dhaka, where Zimbabwe’s seamers pushed the hosts into a corner from which they somehow found an escape.
It may have been hard to come by, but a win is a win and it has brought Bangladesh a step closer to wrapping up the series. Zimbabwe perhaps missed their best chance because the conditions in Dhaka favoured their seamers as much as Bangladesh’s spinners. Khulna is not likely to come to their aid.
Despite their top-order collapses, Bangladesh are still the better batting team and are miles ahead of Zimbabwe in the spin department. But as the first Test showed, it is hard to predict a winner.
What it did indicate also was the inexperience of both teams in handling delicate passages of Test cricket. Khulna will present a new set of challenges, a lot of them for Zimbabwe, but a few for Bangladesh too.
For Zimbabwe, the foremost would be their ability to handle spin. They were found utterly short of skill against Bangladesh’s trio of spinners and appeared walking wickets at times. In Dhaka, it was the bounce. In Khulna, it could be turn.
Although Zimbabwe resorted to novel methods of training after the first Test, like putting a piece of net on the pitch to add unpredictability, playing spin is not a skill developed in a few days.
So they will remain susceptible to collapses and will depend on their experienced players, most of whom have played a lot of cricket in Bangladesh, to apply themselves.
Zimbabwe’s second area of concern is their spin bowling. They have variety in the squad, but are short of experience. In Dhaka, Zimbabwe’s seamers made up for the disappointing performance of the spinners, but moving forward in the series, they will have to bowl a lot more overs.
For Bangladesh, the batting has been a hassle. The openers did not fire while the middle order squandered its starts. Mominul Haque, Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur all played steady hands in the first innings, but could not stretch their innings.
As Mushfiqur leads his side for the 18th team, equaling Habibul Bashar’s record for Bangladesh, he would hope the batting responds in Khulna and they wrap-up the series.
Bangladesh (possible): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Shamsur Rahman, 3 Mominul Haque, 4 Mahmudullah, 5 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt & wk), 6 Shakib Al Hasan, 7 Anamul Haque, 8 Jubair Hossain, 9 Shafiul Islam/Rubel Hossain, 10 Shahadat Hossain, 11 Taijul Islam.
Although Zimbabwe’s spinners were ineffective in the first Test, coach Stephen Mangongo indicated he did not want to make a change as they were still learning.
That decision will, however, be taken by the convenor of selectors who is in Bangladesh. If Tafadzwa Kamungozi does miss out, he could be replaced by legspinner Natsai M’Shangwe.
Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Vusi Sibanda, 2 Sikandar Raza, 3 Hamilton Masakadza, 4 Brendan Taylor (capt), 5 Regis Chakabva (wk), 6 Craig Ervine, 7 Elton Chigumbura, 8 Tinashe Panyangara, 9 John Nyumbu, 10 Tafadzwa Kamungozi/Natsai M’Shangwe, 11 Tendai Chatara
Pitch and conditions,
Abul Hasan scored a century on debut from No. 10 two years ago in the only other Test played in Khulna. Two more Bangladesh batsmen narrowly missed hundreds in that game, suggesting the conditions would help the home batsmen.
The overhead conditions are unlikely to be as bleak as in Dhaka, which means batting should be easier and seam bowling hard work.