Shanto blazes away in scorching Dhaka heat

Najmul Hossain Shanto showed admirable form, intent and body language during his 146 against Afghanistan in the Dhaka Test. In the oppressive heat, he notched up his first Test century in almost two years, and his first at home. It comes at a time when Shanto has finally started to score regularly for Bangladesh after spending five years promising plenty but delivering little. He struck 23 fours and two sixes during his 175-ball stay, scoring his runs at a strike rate of 83.42, the second-highest for a Bangladesh batter who has made a 140-plus score.

But eight months ago, Shanto’s international career had come to almost a standstill when he was averaging 26.08 in Tests, 14.53 in ODIs and 18.54 in T20Is. Then he turned the corner with the T20 World Cup in Australia, where he was Bangladesh’s top scorer with 180 runs at an average of 36.00 and a strike rate of 114.64.

Riding on that confidence, earlier this year, he became the first Bangladeshi to cross 500 runs in a BPL season. He scored four fifties and had an overall strike rate of 116.74.

The major turning point, though, was the three successive match-winning knocks against England during the following home T20I series that Bangladesh won 3-0. Last month, he smashed 117 off just 93 balls for his maiden ODI century as Bangladesh chased down 320 against Ireland.

During the time when he wasn’t scoring consistently, Shanto said, he practised and behaved in the same way. There were periods of disappointment when things were being said about him, but all he could do was wait for his fortunes to turn.

“I always believed that I would score runs,” Shanto said after the first day’s play against Afghanistan. “I went to the middle to score runs. I always believed in my training pattern and how much hard work I was doing. [I wanted to find out] what else I needed to do. I had belief in my preparation too. I believed I was progressing in the right way. But I wasn’t getting results despite putting in the effort in training.

“It feels bad when you are not scoring runs but it is true that I didn’t think much about the outcome or whatever was being said about me. I was focusing on my limitations. Now I am getting the outcome, so I am trying to hold on to the consistency as much as possible. “It is special to get a Test century at home. I was concentrating well throughout the innings. I didn’t think differently towards the end. I could have scored more; I will try to make it bigger next time.”

In Dhaka, Shanto attacked the Afghanistan bowlers in various ways, from meeting the ball early to rocking back whenever they went too short. He raced away to 64 off 76 balls, with 11 fours, in the first session. There was the odd good spell he had to see off, but the combination of the opposition’s lack of experience, heat and his own form meant he could score freely. He was also fed a string of leg-stump half-volleys and full-tosses and drove them gleefully.

He added ten more fours and a six in the post-lunch session, bringing up his third Test century along the way. The Afghanistan bowlers were under pressure by this time, but Shanto said that the innings was more challenging than it seemed on the greenish Shere Bangla National pitch.

“I didn’t think scoring was easy,” he said. “I tried to execute my plan, tried to bat with a clear mind. It may have seemed easy but I had to work really hard to get those runs. There was extra bounce on the grassy pitch. [Mahmudul Hasan] Joy took on the new ball pretty well. We played ball-by-ball without thinking too much about losing wickets.

“We haven’t played in this type of heat before but since this is not in our control, we didn’t think much about it. We followed a similar pattern in training in the last few days, doing a lot of work in the heat.”

For the second wicket, Shanto and Joy added 212 runs, which was the bedrock of the innings after Bangladesh lost Zakir Hasan in the second over of the day. Joy played second fiddle, his 76 coming off 137 balls.

“I like batting with Joy,” Shanto said. “We had a small partnership in South Africa too. I enjoyed seeing him tackle the new ball.

“I think their fast bowlers did well in this weather. The spinners put together a number of good overs. I think we will take the credit for tackling them so well.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan coach Jonathan Trott said that his bowlers couldn’t take advantage of the pitch that offered something to both the fast bowlers and spinners.

“I don’t think we bowled as well as we should have,” Trott said. “I think there’s a bit in the wicket. We saw that when we got the ball in the right areas consistently for long enough, we created chances. All the things we need to do well in Test cricket, to do things relentlessly and to be accurate and precise. We need to do better tomorrow. It was a good lesson for the guys.”

Trott said that Nijat Masood dismissing Zakir early gave them hope but their bowlers’ lack of discipline let the home side off the hook. “There’s always hope when you get an early wicket. But the no-balls didn’t help. A wicket off a no-ball. These are the little things we have to brush up on.

“I think we helped them with the way we bowled. I think if we had bowled better, we would have limited their run rate.”

One response to “Shanto blazes away in scorching Dhaka heat”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *