Can anyone recall the first ball of a Test match disappearing for six? Even in these T20 times, it was a rare occurence when West Indies hitman Chris Gayle clobbered the offering from Bangladesh debutant off-spinner Shohag Gazi, who delivered the first over of the match, over long on for a maximum. The fourth ball met a similar fate, and it was pretty clear that the formidable Jamaican had set out to punish Bangladesh skipper Mushfiqur Rahim's gamble of opening with a spinner.
West Indies were undoubtedly the team on top -- centuries from young Kieran Powell and seasoned Shivnarine Chanderpaul carrying the visitors to 361 for four -- when the first day of the first Test at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium drew to a close yesterday, but Bangladesh won the opening exchanges, unthinkable perhaps at the end of the first over. But that is part of Test cricket's charm, which Bangladesh have been deprived of for eleven months.
If Mushfiqur's gamble seemed foolish at first, it proved inspired when Shohag, possibly the only bright spot for the hosts on an otherwise lacklustre day, had danger man Gayle caught at long off trying a repeat of his opening over fireworks off the last ball of the fifth over. It was a nightmarish start for the debutant, whose first over cost 18, but the prize wicket must have given him succour to put in the best performance for the home side on the opening day.
The first session belonged to Bangladesh, as Darren Bravo was caught off Shahadat Hossain in the seventeenth over before Marlon Samuels became Shohag's second victim just before lunch. Three big wickets were taken, although the visitors were scoring at a fair clip, reaching 107 at the end of the first session.
But determined batting from Powell, who had a reprieve on 7 when a catch was disallowed after the ball ricocheted off the silly-point fielder's helmet before landing in Rubel Hossain's hands, and Chanderpaul not only saw the visitors finishing the second session without any loss but also put their team on top in the end. The two Southpaw batsmen initially focused on occupying the crease and avoided any undue risk, hitting boundaries only after settling in the middle. Relying on sheer timing the young and tall Powell, who made his second Test hundred, clobbered 18 boundaries and a six during his 178-ball 117 before being bowled by Shohag just after the tea break to put an end to the 125-run fourth wicket partnership with veteran Chanderpaul, who remained unbeaten on a workmanlike 123 off 195 balls that featured 17 boundaries. Wicketkeeper-batsman Denesh Ramdin gave good company to his senior partner to finish the day on a high note. Bangladesh skipper tried his best, changing the bowling between pace and spin on a pitch where there was turn but not much bounce, but the two set batsmen were not threatened by the Bangladesh bowlers.
Debutant Shohag took the maximum workload on the day and finished with figures of 3-97 from 32 overs.