Rishabh Pant bats the way people in novels live. There is passion, joy, danger and despair and this cycle of adventure keeps repeating.
On day two of the second Test at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium here, Pant took everyone on another roller coaster, scoring 93 glorious runs (104b, 7×4, 5×6), as India tightened its grip with a handsome 87-run lead. At close on Friday, the hosts, in their second innings, reached seven for no loss.
Tilting the scales
Where the match was delicately poised with India at 94 for four, the 159-run partnership (181b) with Shreyas Iyer (87, 105b, 10×4, 2×6) for the fifth wicket turned the match India’s way.
It wasn’t as if Bangladesh didn’t have opportunities; Pant and Shreyas were both dropped in the cordon early on, albeit tough chances. When Shreyas was on 21, wicket-keeper Nurul Hasan fluffed an easy stumping off Shakib Al Hasan.
But for a majority of the time the two were at the crease, they provided superficial escape, like how a good book or a movie would, from the travails of those who batted earlier.
Bangladesh had in fact aced the morning session, with left-arm spinner Taijul Islam (25-3-74-4) rocking the Indian top-order. A tentative K.L. Rahul and Shubman Gill were both trapped in front before Cheteshwar Pujara was out caught at short-leg.
The home side broke for lunch with a spring in its step, and burst back onto the sunlit field bustling with energy. Nine balls in, speedster Taskin Ahmed forced Virat Kohli to poke at an away-going delivery and had him caught behind.
But those were the last of the good memories as Shreyas and Pant plundered runs, with the post-lunch session fetching 140 off 25 overs. Initially, Bangladesh set deep fields to Pant, especially on the leg-side, to limit the southpaw’s brisk scoring. They peppered Shreyas with short deliveries, a nod to the Mumbai batter’s perceived weakness.
But both tactics failed. Pant was happy picking bowlers off his legs for ones, twos and the occasional boundary while Shreyas looked in control, pulling Taskin in front of square and clipping one off his hips for back-to-back boundaries.
Pant soon found his attacking mojo, using the feet expertly to meet the ball well outside the crease, as he smashed offie Mehidy Hasan for two sixes over long-on (both one-handed), despatched Shakib over long-off and deposited Taijul in the deep mid-wicket region for a six and a four.
Insult to injury
Shreyas, let off by Nurul, added insult to injury by hitting Shakib for back-to-back boundaries before smashing Mehidy wide of long-on for a maximum to get close to his fifty. He then chanced his arms against pacers Taskin and Khaled Ahmed, hitting the duo for fours to bring up 150 runs of the stand.
The two eventually fell within 18 runs of each other – Pant for his sixth score in the 90s to go with five centuries, and Shreyas for his second successive number in the 80s – but not before shifting the balance of the match.