A pacer putting spinners under his shadaw


Before Nayeem Hasan and Taijul Islam combined to demolish Zimbabwe in the second innings to script Bangladesh's first Test win after 450 days, Abu Jayed was their bowling star, with four wickets in the first innings in four very good overs of swing bowling, reports Cricinfo.

For a change, it was heartening to see a fast bowler beating the bat regularly in a home Test for Bangladesh. He made the batsman play around the off stump, got his outswing to work subtly, and then nodded in approval. It was a proper quick's spell - though he isn't really quick - with a bit of movement in the air and off the seam. For Bangladesh cricket supporters, seeing spinners take a backseat to a fast bowler was worth the seven-year wait, which started when Bangladesh plunged to the bottom of the Test pace race.

Robiul Islam's 15-wicket haul against Zimbabwe in 2013 was the last performance of note by a Bangladeshi quick in Tests. Frustrated by the poor performances from the pace bowlers, the team management decided to give spin bowlers all the help they need to win Tests at home, and that's how it has stayed since.

It got to a point when they stopped picking pace bowlers in home Tests. But new coach Russell Domingo, after watching Bangladesh's bowlers get pummeled in India and Pakistan recently, decided that the only way to get the pacers to do well overseas would be to get them to play more games at home. One of the reasons for Domingo's belief was Jayed.

"People used to tell me that my pace wouldn't work, they would say that 122 or 125 wouldn't cut it. I am trying to bowl at 130, but I also know that bowling in the right areas is very important" Jayed took 4 for 71 in the first innings, to validate Domingo's idea to do away with rank turners at home. Nayeem and Taijul still found enough on the Mirpur pitch to take 15 wickets, but Jayed's performance stood out.

"I haven't found a pitch like this in Bangladesh before," Jayed told ESPNcricinfo. "It had a lot of swing on offer. It was very encouraging. I tried to bowl in a box on and outside off stump. Our bowling coach Ottis Gibson gave me a lot of freedom to have my own bowling plan. I probably would have bowled more, because [Mominul Haque] Sourav bhai wanted to give me another spell, but the light was the issue [on the fourth day]. "It does get a little frustrating getting a lot of three- or four-wicket hauls. Although I feel it makes me hungry for a five-wicket haul. In this game, I knew what I had to do but like always, I didn't focus on getting wickets. That's completely up to luck sometimes, so my aim was to bowl in the right areas all the time."

Jayed's only other four-wicket haul in Tests was a little higher profile. Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane all fell to Jayed in three separate spells in the Indore Test in November, and although Bangladesh ended up losing by a big margin, there was enough in his bowling to tell Jayed that there was, despite his lack of speed, a future for him at the top level.

"The Indore Test was like a dream. I didn't know what happened, and I ended up taking four big wickets. The performance gave me a lot of confidence," he said. "People used to tell me that my pace wouldn't work, they would say that 122 or 125 wouldn't cut it. I am trying to bowl at 130, but I also know that bowling in the right areas is very important."

"Tamim bhai calls me 'maiden bowler'. He says I am clever, always trying to build a maiden over," Jayed said. "I talk to him and Mushfiq bhai often about bowling. Sometimes, Tamim bhai asks me to bowl a few overs to him in the nets. Mushfiq bhai asks me to bowl with the old ball at times.

"They are both helpful. If I get hit for a four, they don't say anything negative. They tell me to pull my length back, it will produce a wicket."

He is showing all the right signs to be the leader of the Bangladesh pace attack. A healthy bag of wickets - fitness permitting - will probably get him there, but, as he agrees, a few more yards of pace will give him a stronger platform. He has the support of his seniors and his coach. Now to keep building on the good work he has already done.