Kuldeep Yadav sizzled with an all-round performance as he helped put India firmly in the driver’s seat on day two of the opening Test against Bangladesh here on Thursday.
Playing his first Test after more than 22 months, Kuldeep continued his ‘birthday’ party a day after turning 28, in his sensational run with the bat and ball.
Batting at number nine, the left-hander first came up with a career-best 40 from 114 balls (5×4) in a 92-run eighth wicket partnership with veteran Ravichandran Ashwin (58; 113b) to push India to 404 in their first inning from an overnight score of 278/6.
Coming into bowl in the 25th over, the left-arm wrist spinner struck off his second ball as he flummoxed the Bangladesh batters with his wrong ones to end the day with figures of 10-3-33-4, a performance that is certain to regain his confidence.
At stumps on day two, Bangladesh were 133 for eight, trailing India by 271 runs. With two wickets in hand, the hosts still need 72 runs to avoid a follow-on.
First, it was Indian quick Mohammed Siraj who was on a song, as he rattled the Bangladesh top-order, dismissing the left-handed opening duo of Najmul Hossain Shanto (1), Zakir Hasan (20) and Litton Das en route to 9-1-14-3.
Siraj struck in the very first ball when he induced an edge off Shanto with an away going delivery.
Leading the pace department in absence of Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav then reduced Bangladesh to 5 for 2 inside the fourth over after inducing an inside edge off Yasir Ali.
Litton Das (24) showed glimpses of his form with some fluent drives but Siraj had the last say.
Both teams were also involved in a bit of banter especially after Das gave a ‘I can’t hear you’ gesture after an elegant drive off Siraj.
The Indian pacer cleaned him up of the next delivery as he along with Kohli gave him a fiery send-off.
On a roll, Siraj also ended the dogged resistance of Hasan to reduce Bangladesh to 56/4.
The stage was just apt for Kuldeep to make inroads and the Indian did just that, dismissing Shakib Al Hasan when the Bangladeshi senior all-rounder played against the spin.
He then surprised newcomer Nurul Hasan with a wrong one and in the next ball nearly dismissed him LBW but the ‘umpire’s call’ rule gave a breather to the Bangladeshi wicketkeeper.
It was not a rank-turner but he spun the ball square, extracted awkward bounce and the Bangladeshi batters looked all at sea negotiating Kuldeep at the fag end of the day.
“I was a bit nervous, I was very lucky to get the first wicket in the first over. Got the momentum back. After a couple of overs, I started feeling well, mixed my pace and variations, tried both the angles – over the wicket and round the wicket,” Kuldeep said.
“I was getting proper turn, I was actually loving it. After I got injured, I started working on my rhythm, trying to be a bit quicker – that’s helping me a lot. I am not compromising with the spin.
“I didn’t face any discomfort while batting. I thought it’ll be good for batting. When you’re a wrist-spinner bowling with the Kookaburra ball, you’ll definitely get turn and bounce on such wickets,” he added.
The opening session was all about Ashwin and Kuldeep who seized the opportunity with both hands coming up with an all-round show in absence of Ravindra Jadeja.
Kuldeep, who has a century and six fifties averaging 22-plus in first class cricket, got off the mark after 18 balls as he looked solid with his defence.
His slog sweep and reverse sweep shots also caught the attention in his knock off 114 balls with five fours.
Ashwin, who has five Test centuries including four against the West Indies, showed a lot of composure and maturity en route to his 13th Test half-century. Ashwin smashed two sixes and two fours in his 113-ball knock.
Ashwin made his intent clear stepping down to Mehidy for a six. Luck also favoured Ashwin when he survived an ‘umpire’s call’ after left-arm spinner Taijul Islam had him trapped in front of the leg stump when he was on 34.
The duo hardly took a foot wrong pushing India past the 400-mark after the visitors resumed the day at 278 for 6 and lost overnight batter Shreyas Iyer (86) with the addition of just four runs to his total.
Having batted India out of a tricky spot on the opening day, Iyer once again failed to get to a well-deserved hundred.
That pace spearhead Ebadot Hossain was taken out of the attack after his impressive spell of 4-1-7-1 in the morning also helped the Indian cause.
Kuldeep also oozed confidence as Ashwin was happy to take singles and give him the strike.
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