Chattogram, Dec 14 (PTI): Cheteshwar Pujara injected a fresh lease of life into his uncertain international future with a dogged 90 while Shreyas Iyer enjoyed a reprieve to remain unbeaten on 82 in India’s underwhelming opening day score of 278/6 against Bangladesh in the first Test.
Pujara missed out on a Test hundred as he was bowled neck and crop by a beauty from left-arm spinner Taijul Islam (3/84) but not before seeing India out of danger with a 149-run fifth-wicket stand with Iyer.
Mehidy Hasan Miraz (2/71) dismissed Axar Patel off the last delivery of the day to wrest the initiative back for the hosts who would like to restrict India around a total of 300 runs on a track that wasn’t bad for batting.
Credit should also be given to Rishabh Pant (46 off 45 balls) whose counter-attacking knock was of immense value as he was the first one to hold the opposition by the scruff of its neck after skipper KL Rahul (22), Shubman Gill (20) and Virat Kohli (1) were dismissed cheaply within the first 90 minutes of play.
Till Pant was at the crease, it seemed like he was batting on a different track.
Honours were shared on the opening day with Islam emerging as the hero for Bangladesh and showing he has the potential to come out of the shadows of his more illustrious skipper Shakib Al Hasan.
He bowled a couple of classical left-arm spinner’s deliveries to get rid of Kohli in the first hour and Pujara in the final half hour to negate the advantage that India had gained after the fall of three wickets.
In case of Kohli, he tossed it up and bowled a fuller length as the batter went on the back-foot. The ball turned enough to hit him on the back-pad.
If Kohli ended up being plumb in front on the back-foot, Pujara presented a dead defence on the front-foot and saw the ball beat the outside edge of his bat to hit the off-stick.
Iyer, for one, was lucky when he was beaten through the gate by Ebadot Hossain and the ball hit the stumps with the bail being disturbed from its groove but didn’t fall.
While Pujara had 11 fours to his credit, Iyer has 10 hits to the fence so far. But overall, the batting performance left a lot to be desired.
It was Pant who showed the much-needed aggression, hitting six fours and two sixes in his knock as he along with Pujara (42 not out) added 64 runs after India were reduced to 48 for 3 in the 20th over.
India expectedly opted to bat but squandered the opportunity by allowing the Bangladesh bowlers to dominate the proceedings.
The aggressive approach that Rahul spoke about ahead of the game was missing in the first session.
Spin was introduced as early as in the sixth over and Rahul greeted his counterpart Shakib Al Hasan with a cut through the point region.
Gill too showed intent with a cut and pull off pacer Hossain in the following over as India reached 30 for no loss in seven overs.
However, the boundaries dried up thereafter as Bangladesh bowlers stuck to stump-to-stump line and stifled the Indians.
Gill perished to a poor shot, an avoidable sweep, while Rahul played away from his body off pacer Khaled Ahmed only to drag it back on to the stumps.
The top-order batters could have used their feet more against the spinners but preferred to stay back in the crease.
The much-needed attacking approach was displayed once again by Pant who put the pressure back on Islam by smashing him for a couple of fours and a six over wide long-on.
Pant welcomed offie Miraz with a square cut while Islam conceded two boundaries in the last over of the morning session.
Pujara should have been dismissed very early in the second session but Nurul Hasan couldn’t hold on to the rare opportunity in the 27th over off Hossain.
Pant continued to look for quick runs and hammered Miraz and Hossain for two more boundaries. The keeper-batter also clobbered Miraz over deep midwicket for a maximum but the spinner had the last laugh as he cleaned him up next ball in the 32nd over.