Zimbabwe enjoyed another excellent start to their innings, but got themselves into some trouble when they opted to play for the close. Without positive intent, they lost four wickets for 23 runs. They still finished the day 175 ahead with six wickets yet to fall, but they have failed to take the iron grip on the match that looked likely.
The morning session was bread-and-butter Test cricket, with nothing memorable taking place, but Bangladesh put on another 93 runs from their overnight 107 for three and lost two wickets in the process, so neither team gained much of an advantage. Mohammad Ashraful, the man who took away from him Hamilton Masakadza’s record of being the youngest batsman to score a century on his Test debut, continued to bat with responsibility, although he was nearly trapped lbw on 35 when Kyle Jarvis managed to straighten a ball that looked to be heading down leg, and only a thin inside edge saved him. On 47 he had a wild heave at a delivery outside off stump and skied a ball backward of point, but the fielder just failed to hold a very awkward chance. Then he cut a handsome four to reach his fifty, off 123 balls.
Brian Vitori did not bowl as well as he had on the previous afternoon, but he took the first wicket, with an unimpressive delivery; Mahmadullah pulled it straight to midwicket and departed for 13, making the score 136 for four. From the Zimbabwean point of view, the bowling changes, such as they were, did not appear to be very imaginative, with all four seamers being given long unbroken spells before Raymond Price finally came on to bowl his left-arm spin. As usual he was the most economical of the bowlers, but it was Elton Chigumbura who finally removed Ashraful; he got the ball to move in and the batsman, shaping to cut, could only nudge a simple catch to the keeper. He made 73, a mostly disciplined innings, but without looking his best.
The best batsman was Shakib Al Hasan, who pushed on with the scoring through safe, sound and unspectacular methods, taking the score to exactly 200 at lunch. Afterwards he reached his fifty off only 66 balls and continued to swing the balance of the match towards his team. Mushfiqur Rahim settled in and gave his captain impressive support until, uncharacteristically, Shakib drove at a ball from Chris Mpofu outside the off stump and was caught at the wicket for 68 (88 balls). The Zimbabweans celebrated, knowing that this was potentially a match-turning moment; 246 for six.
Abdur Razzak was next to go, lbw to a superb yorker from Mpofu for 11; 258 for seven. Rahim (27) soon followed, skying an attempted hook to square leg, and at 266 for eight the balance was now definitely in Zimbabwe’s favour. The crowd, approaching a thousand in number, were now cheering almost every ball. After a few narrow escapes, Shafiul Islam (5) was beaten by pace and bowled, Jarvis’s first Test wicket, and then the last man, Robiul Islam, fatally padded up to Price and was trapped lbw to end the innings. Bangladesh were all out 287, giving Zimbabwe a lead of 83 on the first innings. Vitori had returned the best figures of four for 66.
An early tea was taken, following which Tino Mawoyo and Vusi Sibanda gave Zimbabwe another solid start, putting on 25 in the first ten overs with caution but no real problems, with Sibanda being the more fluent of the two. At this point Bangladesh brought Razzak into the attack, and in his second over Sibanda drove him for an effortless six. The batsmen’s confidence grew and the 50 came up without loss in the 17th over. There was a possibility of the openers creating history by making century partnerships in both innings, but at 69 Sibanda’s innings was cut short by a brilliant diving catch at midwicket by the substitute fielder Nasir Hossain, off the bowling of Rubel Hossain. He made 38 in fine style, and is on his way to turning shadow into substance; he certainly has the ability to score centuries at Test level.
The wicket slowed the scoring rate right down, and Zimbabwe had perhaps already decided to play for the close, more than ten overs away, when Mawoyo appeared to lose sight of a good ball from Robiul that moved back and bowled him comprehensively through the gate for 35; 79 for two. With positive intent lost, Zimbabwe were placing themselves in danger, and Masakadza was next to go, somehow managing to send a simple high return catch to Shakib after scoring 5 off 28 balls. The night-watchman Price (4) was trapped lbw by Razzak as he went back on his stumps, but then the light came to Zimbabwe’s rescue with 3.3 overs left unbowled. The events of the final hour had given Bangladesh a glimmer of hope in this match which looks very likely to bring a result.