India strike thrice after setting Bangladesh 459

India took a decisive step towards another Test victory after setting Bangladesh an imposing target of 459 as Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja came together to prize out three second innings wickets in the final session. Ashwin, who earlier in the day became the fastest bowler to 250 Test wickets, accounted for Tamim Iqbal and Mominul Haque while Jadeja removed a well-set Soumya Sarkar for 42 leaving the visitors an improbable task on the final day to force a draw.

The late strikes arrived after India decided against enforcing the follow-on early in the morning session after Mushfiqur Rahim completed his fifth Test match century to cut India’s first innings advantage to 299. India had bowled just under 128 overs to bowl Bangladesh out for 388 and deemed it fit to give their bowlers a breather on a Hyderabad wicket, which despite offering turn in the final session, remained largely good for batting.

They then batted 29 overs for their 159 for 4, declaring their innings at Tea after Cheteshwar Pujara completed his half-century and stretched the overall lead past 450. That declaration meant India had 125 overs spread across four sessions to force a victory.

Alternatively, Bangladesh could bat out those overs to save the game or chase down 459 for a historic win. They didn’t give themselves the best of starts to do either. Their first task was to see off the 35 remaining overs of the day without much damage but they were one down after 5.2. Having been given the hard new ball to bowl with, Ashwin had Tamim Iqbal caught at second slip with the aid of DRS.

There was another customary wasted review from India as Sarkar and Mominul Haque put on a half-century stand. Ashwin bowled nine overs on a trot while Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav bowled a couple of uninspired spells. But just when India appeared to have relaxed for the evening, Jadeja beat Sarkar with dip and Ajinkya Rahane took a sharp catch at slip to bring back all the close-in fielders for a nervy finish. Ashwin extracted a little more bounce after a change of ends and had Mominul fall not too long after, as a sombre mood descended the visiting dressing room.

India bowled far better than they’d done in the face of Bangladeshi resistance late on the third day. It took only three balls in the morning for Bhuvneshwar Kumar to bend one delivery back into Mehedi Hasan (51) and knock over the leg stump. The 87-run seventh wicket stand was ended early on Day 4 but Bangladesh continued to make India work for the three remaining wickets.

Ishant Sharma bowled a barrage of bouncers to soften Taijul Islam, who withstood 38 deliveries and a painful body blow before gloving a pacy short delivery from Umesh Yadav to the keeper. With Taskin Ahmed for company, Mushfiqur began farming the strike. To his credit, Taskin did well to hang around as Mushfiqur completed a well-deserved century. The Bangladesh captain flicked Umesh Yadav to the fine-leg fence and realised only belatedly that he’d completed the milestone and duly broke into a wide grin. It was a poignant moment for a player, who has been much chastised for his premature celebration the last time he played India.

But while Mushfiqur soldiered on gallantly, it was only a matter of time before India skittled through the two remaining wickets. To his credit, Taskin handled India’s spinners well for 34 deliveries before Jadeja found his outside edge. Mushfiqur was the last man to go, but became a part of history as Ashwin eclipsed Dennis Lillee’s long held record by three Tests. (45 to 48).

Once the enforcement of the follow-on was decided against, India faced little difficulty in scoring quickly in their second essay. Bangladesh employed spread fields to make quick scoring difficult but the hosts still ended up with 159 runs at a rate of 5.48. Openers Murali Vijay and KL Rahul were caught behind off Taskin but a run-a-ball 67-run stand between Pujara and Virat Kohli (38) helped India score 77 runs in the first hour after Lunch.

Kohli was hurried into a pull by a pacy Taskin bouncer – which clipped the batsman’s helmet – but the Indian captain soon found his touch and along with an equally brisk Pujara for company, kept Bangladesh on the mat. He was eventually dismissed looking to take on Shakib Al Hasan, immediately after hitting what was only his second six of the home season. Pujara added another 38 runs with Ajinkya Rahane while Ravindra Jadeja survived a drop catch (by Mehedi Hassan) to club a six and a four in his short stay before India called off their second essay, leaving Bangladesh an unenviable fourth-innings task.

Brief Scores: India 687/6 decl. & 159/4 decl. (Cheteshwar Pujara 54*, Virat Kohli 38; Shakib Al Hasan 2-50) lead Bangladesh 388 (Mushfiqur Rahim 127, Shakib Al Hasan 82; Umesh Yadav 3-84) & 103/3 (Soumya Sarkar 42; Ravichandran Ashwin 2-34 ) by 356 runs.

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