Bangladesh have a top-order collapse roughly once every two innings, as statistics show. When Mominul Haque was dismissed, Bangladesh were 59 for four in the 18th over. It became the 91st time out of 161 Test innings that Bangladesh’s first four wickets fell before the score had reached hundred.
The easy assumption after the latest collapse would be to call it complacency, particularly after having a decent 2013 batting-wise and an even better previous Test series against New Zealand three months ago. The worst batting performance last year was in the first Test in Zimbabwe last April, when everyone surrendered to seam and the threat of a shorter length.
The same thread followed in this first innings as Shaminda Eranga and Suranga Lakmal bowled a shorter length and produced bounce out of the Mirpur wicket with more wrist-action on the ball. All of them tried to play shots, but weren’t manufacturing it from lengths, to their credit.
But the statistic and the day’s scorecard are dismissive enough of their batting approach. These are the type of batsmen, backed by international runs and domestic promise, who are most likely to return among the runs soon. They have displayed mental ability in the past too, particularly after individual low scores. They will have to mind a few basic points, like picking more singles and doubles because they created less of those opportunities as they usually have more of a focus on hitting boundaries.
Monday’s collapse bore a few similarities of previous such fall-downs. It was the result of bad habits, proper planning from the opposition and impetuous strokeplay, though the current top-order contains more batsmen with ability than it did in the past. Tamim Iqbal’s hook shot that didn’t connect well, Marshall Ayub missed a ball that moved in just a bit. Shamsur Rahman played away from the body, his natural reaction to anything pitched up. Mominul pulled the ball when he shouldn’t have, a poor reaction from a batsman equipped with a progressive technique.
Tamim’s gambit looked daft particularly after he was battling to play a proper shot in the first hour. He could have taken the tougher route, hang back and wait for the bad ball. But as an opening batsman with a higher pedigree than his teammates, he thought the best way to answer Sri Lanka’s stifling length would be to go after the attacking short ball. The result was a catch at long leg, but he would have tried it on most occasions.
Marshall is in need of runs at No 3, Bangladesh’s newest entry into the most important of batting positions in Test cricket. He is a natural middle-order batsman, but due to his technique and domestic runs, he was selected to plug this gap. He has the second innings left in this Test to prove his credentials, and that innings will be pivotal for his future. Shamsur started off with edges, timed the ball for a while before he edged once more. For a debutant opener, he deserves more time and his attacking persona at the crease will reward him soon enough.
These four wickets were followed by the routine recovery act. Shakib Al Hasan and captain Mushfiqur Rahim added 86 runs for the fifth wicket stand but when you start from 59, ending on 145 doesn’t offer much help. The pair’s approach should be followed however, as they only went after short and wide ones, and batted within themselves during the partnership. This was the sort of discipline that Mushfiqur would have expected from the top four, but instead, he dug deep. Shakib started off quickly before reining in his strokes for the rest of the afternoon, until missing a sweep shot off Rangana Herath.
Mushfiqur got a borderline call when the ball appeared to take an inside edge, but replays proved inconclusive. His exit confirmed that Bangladesh would not have a lower-order resurrection, and when they were bowled out for 232 runs, the blame laid squarely on the misfiring top-order.
Luckily, none of the Bangladesh top-order batsmen give excuses. Tamim is in a quest to achieving greater heights as a batsman while his new partner Shamsur has made 267 earlier this month, and is a heavily experienced domestic batsman. So is Marshall, while Mominul’s recent record gives some assurance that he has the knack for a big score.
Most importantly, they have to make sure a second collapse is not repeated, and ensure that the short ball is handled a lot better the next time around.