Stun­ning strike by a teenaged spin­ner

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS - Tony Becca

SPORTS, IN­CLUD­ING cricket, is a won­der­ful thing, es­pe­cially when­ever one is on the win­ning team, or the win­ning side, and par­tic­u­larly, when­ever that vic­tory is a big sur­prise to ev­ery­one, prob­a­bly ex­cept­ing you.

This past week pro­duced two sur­prises, one really not so sur­pris­ing, and one very much so. In fact, one was more than sur­pris­ing: it was sim­ply very sur­pris­ing and stun­ning.

In Shar­jah, the West Indies re­cov­ered to reg­is­ter a vic­tory in the third and fi­nal Test, but although Kraigg Brath­waite bat­ted im­pres­sively in his own inim­itable style, while bat­ting un­de­feated through both in­nings of the Test match, and Ja­son Holder, hint­ing of things to come, bowled mag­nif­i­cently in the sec­ond in­nings, it was one vic­tory against eight losses.

And even though it pre­vented a white­wash, it prob­a­bly was not so sur­pris­ing.

And that vic­tory was not sur­pris­ing be­cause even though it pre­vented the em­bar­rass­ment of a clean-sweep de­feat, the West Indies were once the num­ber-one team in the world and Pak­istan were never that good, de­spite pro­duc­ing some gifted play­ers.

What hap­pened, what ended in Mir­pur last Sun­day, how­ever, was not only stun­ning: it was al­most un­be­liev­able.

It was Bangladesh’s first vic­tory over Eng­land. In fact, it was their first vic­tory over any­one but for the West Indies and Zim­babwe.

Eng­land, right up there with the best of them, never drop­ping be­low num­ber three or four in the world, were beaten, and soundly at that, by Bangladesh, one of the min­nows of the Test cricket, the num­ber-nine team in the world, once the num­ber-10 team, and the sec­ond-to-last rank­ing team of the ICC’s full mem­bers. And it was a hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat for Eng­land. The vic­tory came one week after Eng­land had es­caped with a 22-run vic­tory in Chit­tagong in the first Test, and the man, or boy, who put the skids un­der them was 18-year-old Me­hedi Hasan Mi­raz, who fol­lowed his six-wicket haul in the first in­nings of his de­but Test match in Chit­tagong with match-win­ning re­turns of six for 72 and six for 82 for an amaz­ing 12 wick­ets in the match.

In two matches, out of a pos­si­ble 40 wick­ets avail­able to the en­tire Bangladesh team, he alone snared an im­pres­sive 19 wick­ets.

What made the off-spin­ner’s bowl­ing mag­i­cal, how­ever, was that Eng­land, left to score 273 for

vic­tory, were go­ing well, 100 with­out loss at tea, on the third day when Me­hedi made his play.

With the first de­liv­ery after the in­ter­val, he got a wicket, and there­after, with left-arm spin­ner, the ex­pe­ri­enced all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, as his com­rade at arms, he sti­fled and suf­fo­cated all of Eng­land, the best of Eng­land’s bats­men in one ses­sion.

In 22.3 fan­tas­tic overs, Bangladesh grabbed 10 English wick­ets for 64 runs to storm to a mem­o­rable and his­toric vic­tory, one which, like the West Indies vic­tory over Eng­land in Eng­land in 1950, may prove to be the be­gin­ning of things to come.

While that West Indies vic­tory over Eng­land came after 32 matches, how­ever, the West Indies first vic­tory over Eng­land came in only their sec­ond se­ries and in only their sixth match. This maiden vic­tory for Bangladesh over any of cricket’s big boys came after 94 matches of try­ing.

And it was a vic­tory which left Eng­land’s cap­tain, Alis­tair Cooke, say­ing that be­cause of the de­feat, and the way it was ad­min­is­tered, “We are now go­ing to In­dia as heavy un­der­dogs.”

Spin has been the hall­mark of Asian at­tacks from the days of bowlers like not only of Gami Goonaseena, but like Sub­hash Gupte and Vi­noo Mankad, Bhag­wat Chan­drasekar, Era­pali Pras­sana, Srini Venkatara­ga­van, Bishen Bedi, and Anil Kum­ble, Nasim-ul-Ghani, In­tikhab Alam, Ab­dul Qadir, Shahidi Afridi, Mush­taq Ahmed, Saqlain Mush­taq, oth­ers like Mut­tiah Mu­ralitheran and Ajan­tha Mendis, and, these days, it seems to be get­ting more and more so.

After decades of pace bowl­ing, spin bowl­ing seems to be tak­ing over as the likes of Ravichan­dra Ash­win, Amrit Mishra, and Hardil Pandya of In­dia, Yashir Shah of Pak­istan, Im­ran Tahir of South Africa and Jee­han Pa­tel, Ish Sodhi, and Mitchell San­tar of New Zealand, and Adam Zampa of Aus­tralia.

There are oth­ers like Ran­gana Herath of Sri Lanka, Tai­jul Is­lam (eight for 39 ver­sus Zim­babwe in 2014), Shakib and Me­hedi of Bangladesh, Moen Ali, Adil Rashid and Za­fari An­sari of Eng­land, as well as Su­nil Narine, Sa­muel Badree and Daven­dra Bishoo of the West Indies.

Spin bowlers are com­mon in places like In­dia, Pak­istan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. They pro­duce them at the rate of a dime-a-dozen. Over­seas bats­men, most times, find it dif­fi­cult to play and, most times, if not all the time, pitches are pre­pared to help them.

Although noth­ing is ba­si­cally wrong with it, it seems that this time, Bangladesh en­sured that they pre­pared their pitches for their spin­ners, and although over the years, es­pe­cially be­fore the com­ing of the all-out pace at­tacks, and es­pe­cially in Asia, more overs were bowled per in­nings by spin­ners than by pac­ers, this time it was ridicu­lously one-sided in favour of the spin­ners.

It al­most seems a waste of time and money to have em­ployed for­mer West In­dian fast bowler Court­ney Walsh to find fu­ture Bangladeshi fast bowlers.

In the two Test matches, Bangladesh spin­ners bowled 282.1 overs and their pac­ers 31 overs, and on top of that, and even though Eng­land also opened their bowlers with spin on one or two oc­ca­sions, their spin­ners opened the bowl­ing in both in­nings of both Test matches.

NEW-FOUND SPIRIT

The West Indies, mean­while, de­spite los­ing ev­ery­thing up to then, de­spite this vic­tory not even be­ing a con­so­la­tion vic­tory, ap­par­ently went into this fi­nal Test with some new-found spirit and played quite well.

They lost the toss, as usual, they picked up two wick­ets in the first over of the match in a won­der­ful start, Pak­istan re­cov­ered, they hit back in the ses­sion after tea on the first day, and after strug­gling to 68 for four in the first in­nings, after Pak­istan had strug­gled to 48 for four in the sec­ond in­nings, and after look­ing set to fall again at 67 for five, chas­ing a vic­tory tar­get of 153, the West Indies, based on what had gone on be­fore, squeezed to a sur­pris­ing vic­tory by five wick­ets.

Brath­waite first stroked a well-played 142 not out to fol­low be­hind Frank Worrell, Con­rad Hunte, Des­mond Haynes (three times), and Christo­pher Gayle as West In­di­ans to bat un­de­feated through a Test in­nings, and then re­turned to lead the West Indies fight­back in the sec­ond in­nings with an­other solid and un­de­feated in­nings of 60 not out.

And cap­tain Holder, with five wick­ets for 30 runs, Bishoo, with three for 46, and the re­li­able and con­sis­tent Shane Dowrich, who part­nered Brath­waite with a fine in­nings of 60 not out dur­ing an un­bro­ken six-wicket stand of 97 in the all-im­por­tant sec­ond in­nings, all chipped in to save the blushes.

GRITTY PER­FOR­MANCE

It was a good vic­tory, it was a gritty per­for­mance, and it was a se­ries of some lovely prom­ises.

Brath­waite bat­ted well, and so did Dor­wich. Holder did quite well with both bat and ball, and Bishoo, Shan­non Gabriel, and Alzarra Joseph also bowled well.

Prob­a­bly, the most im­pres­sive statis­tic for the West Indies, how­ever, was bat­ting for over a hun­dred overs on turn­ing pitches in the sec­ond in­nings of the first and sec­ond Test matches and scor­ing 357 and 322 each time.

But as Holder said so beau­ti­fully af­ter­wards: “One Test vic­tory, by all means, is not enough. It’s a sit­u­a­tion where we have to stay hun­gry, and that’s some­thing I be­lieve we have in this group.”

Maybe, with the ex­cep­tion of one or two, that is the case, but we just have to wait and see.

Me­hedi Hasan Mi­raz

ON THE BOUND­ARY HU­MIL­I­AT­ING DE­FEAT

HEAVY UN­DER­DOGS

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