Despite his outstanding entry into the international cricket when he took five wickets across two innings of his debut Test, Bangladesh left-arm spinner Taijul Islam has never been feted as a superstar.
The spinner has quietly been playing his role without much fuss and that was the case again yesterday at the Sylhet International Stadium, where his second five-for of the match repaired some of the damage done by the batsmen being bundled out for 143 in the first innings and conceding a lead of 139. Taijul’s five wickets for 62 runs helped bowl out Zimbabwe for 181 in their second innings, setting up an unlikely but still possible chase of 321 that the home side will resume today on 26 without loss.
In the absence of Bangladesh cricket’s biggest name and most feted spinner Shakib Al Hasan, the 26-year-old led from the front after picking up six wickets in the first innings. His five in the second dig gave the unassuming Natore man his first 10-wicket haul in Tests, becoming only the fourth Bangladeshi bowler to do so.
His match haul of 11 wickets for 170 runs is also the third-best bowling figures by a Bangladesh bowler. Off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz has the best figures with 12 for 159 in his second Test against England in 2016, while another left-arm spinner in Enamul Haque Jr comes in second with 12 for 200 against Zimbabwe back in 2005.
Shakib is the only Bangladesh bowler to pick 10 wickets in a Test match twice.
With a good understanding of the game and his limitations, Taijul tried to draw the batsmen forward regularly, which opened up the possibility for close catches or the chance to sneak through with his arm ball. His intelligence also came to the fore as although the wicket was not a difficult one or overly helpful to spinners, he got the most out of it in both innings with a consistent line and length allied with subtle variations.
Bangladesh head coach Steve Rhodes was all praise for the spinner. “Let’s pay a huge compliment to Taijul for taking 11 wickets on a pitch that isn’t turning big, it is a great effort. He is really stepping up as an international bowler.”
Taijul started where he left off in the first innings, dismissing the dangerous Brendon Taylor — who started positively — to start the proceedings.
He then went on to remove three Zimbabwean wickets in the form of Sean Williams, Peter Moor and Sikandar Raza in the space of just 11 deliveries, picking up his 10th wicket of the game and bringing down Zimbabwe from 121 for three to 130 for six.
Taijul then dismissed last batsman Tendai Chatara to bag his fifth five-wicket haul.
More importantly, with just one seamer in the line up in the form of Abu Jayed, Taijul took the responsibility of bowling the bulk of Bangladesh’s overs — running in for 28.4 overs in the second innings, which followed a marathon 39.3 overs in the first innings.
With the daunting task of chasing a Bangladesh record 321 runs to win the Test match, Imrul Kayes and Liton Das made a good start and ended the day on 26 without loss. Having more than done his job — quietly taking the mantle of a superstar — everything now depends on the batsmen to win the Test and give Taijul his richly deserved reward.