Bangladesh hold the edge

In an engrossing day of Test cricket, Adam Gilchrist notched up his 16th Test hundred to keep Australia in the game. Bangladesh meanwhile led by 282 runs at the close of play with only five wickets in hand. However, such a lead could be decisive on a pitch keeping very low and offering encouraging assistance to the spinners.

The day was dominated by some brilliant batting by Gilchrist. Gilchrist has not been in the best batting form in recent times, going without a Test ton for 26 innings. However, he batted beautifully on a slow and low track. While all the other Australian batsmen failed to come to terms with the nature of the track, Gilchrist adjusted his natural game to fit the circumstances and was eventually last out in the Australian innings for 144.

With the occasional ball keeping low, the Australian ‘keeper concentrated on playing straight and defending watchfully while waiting for the bad ball. He had an able partner in Jason Gillespie for much of the day, who put up a stubborn resistance to add 73 with Gilchrist. Gillespie had arrived at the crease with his side in further trouble as Brett Lee was trapped LBW for 15 by Mortaza. With the Aussies at 156-7, Gillespie knew he had a specific role to play – to put a high price on his wicket while Gilchrist took care of the scoring. The two nullified the Bangladeshi attack with straight bats, and in the case of Gilchrist, some enormous sixes while the Aussies slowly progressed past the follow-on mark.

Gillespie was eventually clean bowled by Rafique while attempting an ambitious pull shot for 26 off 88 deliveries. This was the signal for Gilchrist to really cut loose, with only Clark and MacGill for company. Gilchrist hit four huge sixes, in a partnership of 39 with Clark, who contributed all of zero to the stand. Unfortunately for the Aussie vice-captain, Clark could only hang on for so long, and was plumb LBW for a duck off 20 balls. With the Australian score at 268-9, Gilchrist eventually tried one big shot too many to be caught at square leg for 144. The deficit was 158 runs at that point and the Aussies certainly had their work cut out for them.

For the Bangladeshis, their leading bowler was the veteran, Mohammad Rafique. Rafique took his seventh five-wicket haul in Tests to finish with 5-62, while Mortaza and Enamul Haque Jnr chipped in with two wickets each.

The Bangladeshi innings started with a bang, much as it had done in the first innings. With a tough period to bat out prior to the tea break, both openers were in an aggressive mood. They both went for their shots and with a little luck, ended the session on 41 for no loss in only eight overs.

Australia made the vital breakthrough immediately following the break. First innings centurion Shahriar Nafees was clean bowled by a fast yorker from Lee, and Javed Omar inside-edged to Gilchrist to leave the Bangladeshis reeling at 58-2. The going did not get any better as their skipper, Habibul Bashar, was run out by a brilliant throw from Michael Clarke for only seven, and Mohammad Ashraful was unlucky to be adjudged LBW to a ball sliding down leg from Stuart Clark. The Bangladeshis were then 77-4 and in quite a spot of bother.

The cool head of Rajin Saleh came to their rescue. Batting with Aftab Ahmed, the pair added 47 in 116 balls as the innings was in recovery mode. However, it was clear that Ahmed was becoming impatient and he eventually tried to sweep a MacGill wrong’un across the line to be trapped absolutely plumb in front for LBW. With only a couple of overs left in the day at that point, the Bangladeshi wicketkeeper Khaled Mashud had to see out the rest of the day, which he did with few alarms. Bangladesh finished the day on 124-5, but importantly for them the rock of the innings, Rajin Saleh, will still be out in the middle come tomorrow morning.

Bangladesh will no doubt be looking to extend their lead to 300 and beyond, and won’t feel comfortable without a lead of at least 350. On the other hand, Australia will want to take the remaining five wickets as quickly as they can in order to begin their run chase. However, they will know that batting won’t be easy on the last two days on a track starting to play a few tricks.
The stage is set for an enthralling conclusion to the Test match.

Bangladesh 427
Shahriar Nafees 138, Habibul Bashar 76, Rajin Saleh 67
Stuart MacGill 8-108, Jason Gillespie 2-47

Australia 269
Adam Gilchrist 144, Jason Gillespie 26
Mohammad Rafique 5-62, Mashrafe Mortaza 2-56

Bangladesh 124-5
Shahriar Nafees 33, Rajin Saleh 29*
Stuart Clark 1-8, Jason Gillespie 1-30

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