Nothing’s going to change on the leaderboard when Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, the ninth and tenth-ranked teams in the world, indulge in a two-Test series, except that a lot might, report agencies.
Both the teams are coming off a string of losses in Test cricket; while Bangladesh haven’t had a win in their last seven Tests, Zimbabwe’s losing streak stretches to up to 12 Test matches, meaning that something’s gotta give in this series.
Bangladesh will look to get off to a winning start when they take on Zimbabwe in the first of two Tests, starting Saturday, 3rd November in Sylhet – the picturesque venue will host its first Test match.
The first Test, which starts Saturday, November 3, marks the Test debut for Sylhet International Cricket Stadium, which comes to relevance just in time and offers a blank slate to two teams desperate to tell a different story.
The home team will be riding high on confidence after defeating Zimbabwe 3-0 in the one-day internationals, and will be keen to stamp their authority in the longest format too.
The teams last squared off in a Test series in 2014, when Bangladesh clean-swept Zimbabwe 3-0 in home conditions. Since then, Bangladesh have only become a more formidable Test side at home, as victories against the likes of England and Australia in recent years will suggest.
But Bangladesh can ill-afford to take things lightly. Their last Test assignment – a two-Test series in the West Indies – saw them crumble to two innings defeats. Even at home, they lost heavily to Sri Lanka in February 2018 in Dhaka. So, while they have become a better team, there remain chinks in the armour.
The injury-enforced absence of Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan makes things a lot more challenging for Bangladesh, but it also presents an opportunity for the likes of Mohammad Mithun, Nazmul Hossain and Ariful Haque to make a statement. Mushfiqur Rahim will have to guide the way with the bat alongside Mahmudullah. Opener Imrul Kayes, who was outstanding in the ODIs, will also look to bring his form into the Tests.
Bangladesh’s bowling attack wears a potent look, although Shakib’s absence is likely to be felt in this department too. The likes of Mehidy Hasan, Mustafizur Rahman and Taijul Islam have enjoyed success at home and will look to build on that reputation.
Bangladesh will step into the series without two of their best players: Shakib Al Hasan, who’s tending to his injured finger, and Tamim Iqbal, who fractured his wrist in the opening Asia Cup encounter and continues to recover. Mahmudullah will take over as the Test captain, and in a new partnership with Steve Rhodes will try and put Bangladesh’s Test malaise behind.
Bangladesh, though coming off two scorching defeats in the Caribbean, have won the last four Tests against Zimbabwe, and walk into the first Test as favourites.
Even though this is the first Test match at Sylhet, expect it to spin with good bounce. In the absence of their primary spinner, Bangladesh will look to inflate their spin prowess on a favourable deck, and especially against Zimbabwe, who looked short of technique in their limited audition in the three-match ODI series. A bit of rain is forecast over the course of the Test match.