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IND Vs BAN, 1st Test, Day 4: Axar Patel Stars With The Ball As India Inch Closer To Victory

Set a stiff target of 513, Bangladesh ended the penultimate day on 272/6 with India needing four wickets to win the opening Test.

Axar Patel, centre, celebrates with his teammates after getting Mushfiqur Rahim's wicket on Day 4.
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Seasoned Axar Patel upped the ante with a triple strike just when it mattered as Indian bowlers compensated for an insipid first session by reducing Bangladesh to 272 for 6, closing in on a big victory, on the fourth day of the opening Test in Chattogram on Saturday. (More Cricket News)

Debutant Zakir Hasan (100 off 224 balls) showed a lot of character, scoring a patient hundred, but saving the Test match by batting out for nearly 180 overs in two days was always going to be an uphill task, as also chasing a target of 513.

Bangladesh need another 241 runs on the final day on Sunday, but skipper Shakib Al Hasan (40 batting) could be keener on delaying the inevitable.

While Zakir and his young opening partner Najmul Hossain Shanto (67, 156 balls) frustrated the Indian bowlers for an entire session and added a record 124 for the first wicket, the visitors pulled back things in the second session to regain control of the proceedings.

Axar (27-10-50-3), who had a dream Test debut against England at home in 2021, perhaps had his best performance in a short career in the longest format, considering that the fourth day wicket didn’t have a lot of help for spinners.

The Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury track didn’t show considerable wear and tear and surviving wasn’t difficult with only a few deliveries turning appreciably.

Three batters -- Yasir Ali (5), Mushfiqur Rahim (23) and Nurul Hasan (3) -- actually preempted Axar’s deliveries and made a fatal mistake.

Yasir and Mushfiqur didn’t cover their off-stump line expecting arm balls, but it turned enough after pitching, pegging the off-stump back on both occasions. The only difference was that Yasir plonked his front foot while Mushfiqur went on back foot.

In the case of Nurul, Axar gave the ball extra flight and the batter was beaten for turn as he tried to convert it into a half-volley and Rishabh Pant effected a smart stumping.

Ravichandran Ashwin (27-2-76-1) wasn’t at his best in this game, but he would certainly feel happy to see the back of Zakir, caught by a diving Virat Kohli at first slip. The batter's defensive prod got an inside edge onto the pads and popped up for Kohi to lunge in-front.

Kuldeep Yadav (18-2-69-1) also did his bit by prodding a fidgety Litton Das to try and loft him over mid-on but the batter couldn’t check his half-scoop and half-drive,  offering an easy catch to Umesh Yadav.

But no credit is enough for young Zakir, who showed admirable temperament while playing a defensive game in his first Test but also hitting those boundaries -- 13 in all along with a six during his innings. 

Till the southpaw got out, none of the Indian bowlers, save Umesh Yadav during a post-lunch spell with old Kookaburra, could trouble Zakir.

Umesh (15-3-27-1), in the post-lunch session, bowled a beautiful spell with the old Kookaburra, getting the odd ball to reverse. Some of the deliveries that Zakir decided to leave on length could have hit the off-stump but he was lucky.

In fact, Umesh also had a hand in drawing the first blood after a record opening stand between Zakir and Shanto.

Umesh ended Shanto's 156-ball resilience with a fuller delivery outside the off-stump and found the left-handed opener poking at it indecisively. Shanto could have still been lucky as the ball popped out of first slip fielder Kohli's grasp, but Pant dived full stretch to his left and caught it on the second attempt.

The second session turned out to be an important one for India as it yielded only 52 runs and the three wickets dented any dreams of an upset that Bangladesh team could have harboured.

In the first session though, Zakir and Shanto batted with a lot of purpose as their gritty half-centuries helped Bangladesh reach 119 for no loss by lunch.

The two left-handers showed a lot more application on a track, which looked good for batting.

Incidentally, the century-plus stand between Zakir and Shanto was the highest by any opening pair against India in Test matches.

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