Zimbabwe’s later batting failed, but the left-arm seamer Brian Vitori, making his debut, broke through the Bangladeshi top order, forcing them to dig in and try to fight their way out of trouble.
During the morning it appeared that Zimbabwe paid the penalty for rather too passive batting. The Bangladeshi bowling was more accurate than it had been on the first day, but at no time did the batsmen make any real effort to take advantage of their excellent overnight position and dominate the bowlers. Masakadza, 88 overnight, took almost half an hour before recorded his first runs of the day, although it took less time than that to move through the nineties and reach his second Test century, more than ten years after his first. He went to 99 with a magnificent back-foot off-drive for four, although the fielder should have stopped it.
Taylor, who might perhaps have shown more enterprise while Masakadza was preoccupied, soon reached his own fifty with a handsome back-foot drive for four through the covers. But now, when they should have been able to take charge, Masakadza drove loosely outside the off stump to a ball from Robiul Islam and was caught at slip for 104. He batted nearly five hours, faced 244 balls and hit eight fours and a six. He remains Zimbabwe’s finest batsman. The score was now 304 for three.
This was the start of the slide. Craig Ervine struggled at the start, and was then trapped lbw to Mahmadullah for 6. Taylor was now the key batsman, but when he had 71 he lashed at a wide delivery from Robiul and edged a catch to the keeper. The unpredictable Elton Chigumbura almost played on first ball, and had only 5 to his name when he unwisely swept at a ball from Shakib Al Hasan on the stroke of lunch, and was caught backward of square leg – although the fielder almost fluffed it. A lunchtime score of 326 for six was disappointing: four wickets had fallen for 22 runs.
After the break Raymond Price joined Tatenda Taibu, who was very sharp on the cut, which brought him most of his early runs. Price (4) was given out lbw to Rubel Hossain, perhaps a little high, but Kyle Jarvis looked like hanging around as Taibu went for the runs. As long as Taibu was there, even with a weak tail to help him, a total of 400 was still a possibility, but then he lunged forward to a ball from Shakib just outside the off stump and was caught at slip for 23; 352 for eight.
Jarvis played a superb straight drive that smashed out the middle stump at the bowler’s end, robbing him of what would have been highly impressive first Test-match runs. Vitori seemed determined to hit the spinners out of the ground, and after a number of impressive misses did manage to put one from Shakib into the stand at midwicket; later in the over he holed out on the boundary there for 12. The last man, Chris Mpofu, has quite a facility for getting stumped, and it happened again, off Abdur Razzaq. He made 2, Jarvis was unbeaten with 4, and Zimbabwe were out for 370. The last eight wickets had brought only 66 runs. There were three wickets each to Rubel and Shakib. Bangladesh had fought back well, but Zimbabwe contributed to their own decline.
The left-armer Vitori was given the honour of bowling the first over of the Bangladeshi innings, and might well have taken a wicket with his first ball, as Tamim Iqbal flashed at a loose ball swinging away well outside off stump. Another debutant, Jarvis, took the second over, a rare occurrence for a country in other than its inaugural Test. It took twelve balls for the normally aggressive Bangladeshi openers to get the scoreboard moving, when Imrul Kayes drove a ball from Jarvis through extra cover for four. He did not score again before becoming Vitori’s first Test wicket, however, as the bowler made a ball lift and take the edge of the bat, resulting in a catch at first slip. Bangladesh were 13 for one.
Shahriar Nafees almost followed first ball, slashing at a delivery just outside off and just evading gully at high speed. He continued to live dangerously, slashing a four in the next over between slips and gully, and next ball being dropped off a low hard chance in the slips. Presumably he is the man who put the Bang into Bangladesh. The small but growing crowd became excited, expecting a wicket every ball. Tamim Iqbal (15) was next to go, though, like Kayes edging a ball from Vitori into the slips, where Taylor took a fine diving catch; 36 for two. Eager for another wicket before tea, Zimbabwe put five slips in place, but the interval was taken at 38 for two.
Some words were obviously spoken in the Bangladeshi dressing room during the break, as Nafees and Mohammad Ashraful came out determined to bat in the manner followed by the Zimbabwe top order: stay there and accumulate, with nothing fancy. The scoring rate dropped drastically, to about two an over, but the batsmen stayed in. They struggled at times against fine bowling, the Zimbabwean seamers – the team’s supposed main weakness – looking far more dangerous than the Bangladeshi ones had appeared, and having both batsmen in trouble at times. But they followed their new policy with great application, and the only chance was a missed run-out chance against Nafees when he had 36.
Finally Nafees reached his fifty, but progressed no further, as he was dismissed in unfortunate fashion. He tried to sweep a ball from Price, but the ball bobbed off his glove quite high into the air and removed his off bail. He faced 126 balls, a very responsible innings after tea following his almost suicidal approach before it. The day ended with Zimbabwe on the attack, fielders surrounding the bat as they strove in vain for another wicket. Ashraful, unusually disciplined, finished the day unbeaten with 34. This match can go anywhere, and the third day could well, as it often does, see one side seize the initiative. Which one remains to be seen.