Bangladesh's tumble to defeat was clear from the end of the third day of the second Test against West Indies at the Sheikh Abu Naser Stadium in Khulna. The West Indies had taken a first innings lead of 177 and still had five wickets in hand, with run-machine Shivnarine Chanderpaul batting on 109. On the fourth day yesterday however, Bangladesh and Shakib Al Hasan in particular learnt a harsh lesson in Test cricket after the left-hander did splendidly both with the ball and with the bat to give the home side a glimmer of hope, which he himself extinguished at the fag end of the day.
It was almost a day to celebrate for Bangladesh's feted all-rounder, but the word 'almost' will probably be what the day is remembered for. He had to wait till his 49th over to take his first wicket, that of Denesh Ramdin, but after that he sent back Darren Sammy, Veerasammy Permaul and Sunil Narine in his next five overs. In taking four wickets he not only became just the second Bangladesh bowler to claim 100 Test wickets and the country's highest wicket-taker -- overtaking Mohammad Rafique on 100 -- but also effectively limited the West Indian dominance as captain Sammy declared with a lead of 261, not insurmountable on a batting-friendly track.
But the top-order batsmen repeated their first innings ineptness, crashing to 82 for five -- losing all wickets in the afternoon session, culminating in captain Mushfiqur Rahim's most uncharacteristic slog to be bowled by Permaul. At that stage Shakib, so often the saviour, stepped in with what was one of his better innings. He constructed a 144-run sixth wicket partnership with Nasir Hossain and had carried the team to within 35 runs of clearing the deficit but that is when the harsh lesson was handed out.
The lesson is that in Test cricket a batsman's job is never really done until a team is safe, and safety in a Test match is not an easily won position. Shakib, batting on 97 and undoubtedly anxious to get his third hundred to cap a perfect day from an individual viewpoint, stepped out to Permaul in the first ball of the last over of the day and tried to hit the ball miles, but it only went the thirty metres or so to the mid-off fielder. A century may have been the icing on a perfect day for him, but it would still not have gotten the Tigers out of the woods.
Getting out at that stage, when the West Indians were on the ropes after a fighting stand from the home team and a session in which not a wicket had fallen after the five scalps in the previous one, spells certain doom for the team as the visitors will be rejuvenated in the morning today knowing that their opponents' main weapon has been neutralised.
It may seem unfair to dwell on Shakib's dismissal when his top order teammates just did not turn up and were reckless, but it's the manner of dismissal which finds the near-saviour especially culpable. He could just as easily have picked three singles to get to his hundred, or even stopped bothering about the milestone knowing fully well that he could come back tomorrow and reach it in good time.
A 144-run stand is not enough to save a match, especially when the opposition had recorded a partnership of more than 300 and another worth more than 150. Neither was a 117-ball 97 an innings that could change the momentum decisively. Perhaps it was the knowledge that his shot erased the considerable good work he had done for his team that kept him from appearing at the post-day press conference, even though he was the best performer of the day.
Instead of enduring a wicketless session and being confronted with two set batsmen in the morning, Shakib's shot has ensured that the visitors will come out all guns blazing, with only four wickets to go and 35 runs to guard for an innings victory.