Meek top-order leaves India vulnerable against Bangladesh


Since England’s series win at home ten years ago, India have been so dominant in subcontinental conditions that they have lost just three and won 40 of the 50 Tests they have played in the region. And as they effectively reduced Bangladesh to 26 for 6 in the second innings in Dhaka, another straight series win seemed to be around the corner.

But Litton Das, along with the brave Nurul Hasan and Taskin Ahmed, refused to budge. The trio struck against the old ball and a wide field to take India to 145 to win. And in a remarkably timid display, not unlike the stifling manner of the T20 World Cup semi-finals at the top level, India were reduced to 37 on the third evening of 4 in the 23 overs left as they tried to defend their way.

Only Axar Patel, promoted to No.4 ahead of Virat Kohli, held firm on 26 not out to take India into the thick of things in the company of nightwatchman Jaydev Unadkat, who needed another 100 runs on day four. In the 138 deliveries they faced, the Indians hit just four boundaries, three of which came from Axar.

Bangladesh arguably turned the momentum of the day in their favor with their low order batting. However, far from showing any intention of going after the target and insisting that they were still ahead in the game, India came out as if they had only a few minutes to make a move at the post, and just blocked it. . The players around the bat on a pitch that has offered something to the bowlers over the three days, was not the wisest approach.

Stand-in captain KL Rahul ended the disastrous series with the bat with scores of 22, 23, 10 and 2. He doesn’t have a lot of strides forward, especially in the beginning of the innings, and in the way he is in reluctant mode. the timing doesn’t help. Shakib Al Hasan’s tossed delivery continued with his arms as it spun and bounced and gave the wicketkeeper a thin edge.

Shubman Gill survived a front leg delivery off the first ball of the second innings to defend the Bangladesh captain. This seemed to play on his mind, as he then proceeded to pull out repeatedly to try and stifle the spinners.

Cheteshwar Pujara prefers to play against spin anyway. It’s rarely done in flight, however, when it’s out, and if it is, it’s usually adjusted to avoid damage. On Saturday, he failed against the off-spin of Mehidy Hasan Miraz, who dragged it, drove it in at slightly short length, and got the inside edge back to end the wicketkeepers stumping in time.

India now sent Axar in place of Kohli, apparently for a left-right combination, according to Mohammad Siraj. Axar faced the left-armers of Shakib and Taijul Islam, but Mehidy kept dismissing the right-handers. Now Gill moved from one off-spinner to another for another stumping of Nuru.

None of the three batsmen who fell seemed to trust their frontline defense so far, but if anyone does, it’s Kohli. Even in the first innings in defensive mode, Kohli continued to stretch forward to block, refusing to get out of the slot. But leaving the slot safety – to defend and not attack as well – on a pitch to turn against the new ball may not be the best method, even the forward defense is not without risk.

At 22 for 1, Mehidy turned and bounced a delivery to take Kohli’s inside edge to advance short leg. This sparked wild celebrations among the Bangladeshi players and prompted the umpire to intervene as Kohli got angry at something he said and then gave his colorful response.

The shoe was definitely on the other foot now, and it seemed a long time before Bangladesh were reduced to 113 for 6 after lunch. Only Chattogram’s first centurion Zakir Hasan faced a half-century, but he too cut off third man Umesh Yadav.

Bangladesh still had some ammunition left, however. Litton and Nurul started to take their chances, went on runs and forced India to spread more riders on the boundary as the lead grew. Nurul R Ashwin went out to loft a six in a row, Litton got four Axar twins in front of square.

Along with the change in momentum came luck. Kohli couldn’t hold on to at least three tough chances at slip, and went wrong on two of them. Nurul won 31 to 29 by the time Axar lured and stunned him. Taskin Ahmed came into the key and made his way to 31 not out.

Litton hit Mohammed Siraj with a commanding four over the covers, but the durable pacer got his reward when he released his bails with a sharp edge. Bangladesh lasted just four more overs after Litton’s departure, but his quick-fire 73 gave them the bowling and a glimmer of hope.

Mehidy has been a thorn in India’s side throughout this tour, and after scoring a duck he would come roaring back with the ball. As India looked to protect one of their top batsmen against the left-arm spinner by sending them left-arm, the off-spinner delivered three massive blows that allowed Bangladesh to clinch this series. “If we get two early wickets in the morning, we can go for the win. If we get early wickets, we have a chance. I think I can do well tomorrow [Sunday]Mehidy said.

Only once have India lost a Test while chasing a target of less than 150: the infamous collapse of 81 in Barbados in 1997 while still chasing 120 for 81. Lanka), Pune 2017 (Australia) and Chennai 2021 (England) as it is only the fourth defeat in a decade in the Indian subcontinent.

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