The first day of play put Bangladesh in control as Zimbabwe reached 236 for 5 at Sylhet International Cricket Stadium on Saturday. Tigers chipped away at the visitors, but could not run through them on the first day of Sylhet Test. Zimbabwe’s Sean Williams kept them alive with his brilliant 88-run innings.
Sylhet hosted its inaugural test since its inception in 2013 to become the country’s eighth Test venue and the first day of the Test panned out well for the Tigers. In absence of two stalwarts, Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal it was a test for interim captain Mahmudullah and his team to carry on the good form of ODI series.
For Bangladesh, 18-year old pace all-rounder Ariful Haque and left-hand spinner Nazmul Islam was handed debuts. While Zimbabwe also handed debuts to spinners Wellington Masakadza and Brandon Mavuta.
Winning the toss, Zimbabwe skipper Hamilton Masakadza opted to bat first. First session of the day was evenly matched as Zimbabweans posted 85 runs on the board for the loss of two wickets. Masakadza completed his half century and both of Zimbabwe’s wickets were grabbed by left-arm orthodox bowler Taijul Islam. Taijul dismissed Brian Chari for 13 and Brendan Taylor for just six runs.
During the second session, Zimbabweans tried to fight back but they couldn’t handle Tigers lethal bowling attack. They lost Masakadza just after the launch break as pace bowler Abu Jayed trapped him by lbw. Williams then tried to counter with Sikander Reza. They combined for a 44-run partnership for the fourth wicket to steady the innings before left-arm spinner Nazmul Islam got the better of Raza (19) for his maiden Test wicket. At tea, Zimbabwe’s score was 149 for 4 in 62 overs.
After tea, Zimbabweans began their recovery. Williams and Peter Moor were batting carefully in the 5th wicket stand. Williams along with Moor built a formidable fifth-wicket partnership of 72 runs in 29 over’s. Williams was looking all set for his ton but Tigers skipper Mahmudullah made Williams his prey. Williams was caught by Mehedi Miraz on Mahmudullah’s ball, ending his brilliant innings of 88 runs from 173 balls. His innings included nine boundaries. Zimbabwe’s score was 201 for 5.
After Williams’s dismissal Moor and Chakabva steadied the sinking ship. Their 35-run alliance was pivotal as it helped them to survive till the last over of the day. Peter Moor remained unbeaten on 35. After the match Williams said, “Good batting wicket, but not one where you can score freely on. You had to grind it out and not throw it away. We didn’t have too many partnerships, which was a bit of a letdown, but I’m happy with the way we played. I was disappointed to get out so close to drinks. One lapse of concentration let me down, or I could have still been out there. PJ and Regis are looking good. Hopefully they can kick on tomorrow and not let these dot balls affect them, because Test cricket lasts a long time. It’s crucial that we bat for a long time in the first innings. If the cracks open up, it could be a very good Test match.”