The 359-run association for the fifth wicket was brutal, pleasing and purposeful. The measured leaves, playing under the eye-line, crunching drives and cuts, and unending powers of concentration – the duo underscored some of the attributes needed to unlock success in Test cricket.
When the post-Tea session commenced, Bangladesh were already in cruise control at 391 for 4. Rahim and Shakib, however, continued to pile on the misery on New Zealand with their imperious blades. After the break, it was Neil Wagner who came in for some punishment as he was thumped for three fours in the 103rd over.
Shakib also combined Asian wrists with selective power to collect three boundaries off Mitchell Santner in the 111th over of the innings. By then, the duo had strung together a 300-run stand. The body language of the opposition camp – drooping shoulders, forlorn looks, dejected eyes; they were tell-tale signs that the hosts were left to ponder where the next wicket would come from.
To make matters worse, BJ Watling dived to his left and appeared to have pouched a fine catch of Shakib, but the on-field umpire wasn’t sure whether it was cleanly taken. The resultant replays showed that it hit the ground before nestling in Watling’s gloves. Shakib received another reprieve when Ross Taylor fluffed a chance off Trent Boult in the 120th over of the innings.
Bangladesh soon reached the noteworthy landmark of 500 when Rahim drove uppishly through third man to crack yet another boundary. On the other hand, Jeet Raval’s clumsy effort that resulted in the boundary just capsulised New Zealand’s chastening experience in the field.
Shakib reached his first double hundred in Tests with a cut shot off Colin de Grandhomme that raced away to the boundary hoardings. The helmet was off as Shakib looked skywards and soaked up the rousing applause from his team-mates.
Finally, Boult broke the Rahim-Shakib batting duet by dismissing the former. However, by then, Bangladesh were already 519. Wagner followed it up by inducing Shakib to chop one onto the stumps. Ironically, the cut shot that had helped Shakib to dismantle the opposition attack eventually led to his dismissal. Wagner, on his part, showed good sportsman spirit by congratulating Shakib for his monumental effort. Despite losing Mehedi Hasan at the stroke of stumps, Bangladesh found themselves in a commanding position.
The veteran pair of Rahim and Shakib didn’t just stitch a brilliant partnership but also broke a few records on the way. The 359-run stand now is the highest partnership for any wicket for Bangladesh in Tests. It also turns out to be the highest partnership for any wicket in Bangladesh-New Zealand Tests. The partnership will go down in the history books as the fourth highest stand for the fifth wicket in the longest format of the game. Shakib notched up his first double hundred and to put the icing on the cake, the left-handed batsman also crossed the 3000-run mark in Tests during the course of his innings.
The visitors dominated the first two sessions of the day as well. After the Lunch break, Rahim and Shakib opened up their shoulders to deflate New Zealand. It was Rahim who initially bristled with intent by creaming a drive off Wagner in the 78th over of the innings. When the second new ball was taken, Rahim showed his enterprise with the willow with gorgeous cover-drives off Boult.
Boult and Tim Southee then caused the veteran pair a few problems by extracting appreciable movement off the surface. However, Rahim and Shakib were able to withstand testing spells and navigate the threat of the second new ball. Rahim, in particular, had his fair share of luck. In the 84th over, he edged a couple of deliveries through the slip cordon. He also got an inside edge onto the stumps in the next over bowled by Boult, but the bails remained unmoved.
As Bangladesh’s batsmen enjoyed slices of luck, an air of frustration was writ large on the faces of New Zealand’s pacers. Shakib soon reached his fourth Test ton with a single off Wagner. Rahim, his partner at the other end, also compiled his first Test hundred against New Zealand with a boundary off Southee and the Bangladesh captain took out a gold coin from his pocket and pointed it towards the dressing to celebrate the achievement.
In the first session, New Zealand’s only success came when Southee forced Mominul Haque to edge one from round the wicket. Rahim and Shakib, however, hauled the visitors out of a tricky position with a brisk stand. Wagner changed angles and bowled from round the wicket. Williamson also had a deepish forward short leg and a leg gully in place, but New Zealand couldn’t make the breakthrough.
After losing both the One-Day International and Twenty20 International series, Bangladesh have scripted a remarkable turnaround. The visitors still haven’t won a single game across formats in New Zealand till now. This Test could very well help them to break the hoodoo.
Brief scores: Bangladesh 542/7 (Shakib Al Hasan 217, Mushfiqur Rahim 159; Neil Wagner 3-124) vs New Zealand.