Bangladesh finds its first left-arm leg-spinner, it’s Shakib

Leg-spinners are a rarity in Bangladesh cricket. Only a handful of leg-spinners are seen in domestic cricket and in international cricket the number further dwindles down.

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For a country struggling to produce one decent leg-spinner, it’s a luxury to expect a left-arm leg-spinner, which also called the ‘Chinaman’ bowler, playing for them in a Test match. But for a brief moment on Monday, Bangladesh had a left-arm leg-spinner playing for them in a Test, the name of the ‘Chinaman’ was Shakib Al Hasan.

Shakib is a left-arm orthodox spinner who is known for his arm-ball, the ball that holds its line after pitching and goes with the direction of his arm. But in the 111th over of Sri Lanka’s first innings and Shakib’s 27th over of the match, the veteran all-rounder pulled a rabbit out of his hat.

Dinesh Chandimal was on strike and was looking increasingly comfortable against the Bangladesh spinners. Chandimal got on strike after the second ball of the over and played two dot balls against Shakib.

Shakib started his run-up for the fifth ball of the over. His approach to the crease was the same but right before releasing the ball the spinner changed his grip and spun the ball with his wrist.

The ball didn’t judiciously spin but it did surprise Chandimal, who after offering a dead bat to the ball signalled to his partner Angelo Mathews at the other end that Shakib bowled a leg-spinner, not his regular off-spin.

Spinners adding new variations to their arsenal is nothing unique. But seeing Shakib experiment with his bowling 16 years into his international career shows that the all-rounder is still striving for betterment.

Agony for Mathews

Angelo Mathews has been a mainstay for Sri Lankan cricket for many years. The all-rounder, who was forced to become a batter due to recurrent struggles with injury, is the most experienced batsman in the Sri Lanka line-up. In the Chattogram Test, the right-hander battled with belting heat for almost two days to score a brilliant Test century. But even after such a tremendous innings, the 34-year-old left the field dejected.

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Mathews came to the crease after the second wicket fell and he departed as the final wicket of Sri Lanka’s first innings. He faced 397 deliveries, thwarted Bangladesh’s three-man spin attack, struck 19 boundaries and one six. He showed great composure throughout this innings. But with his second Test double hundred in touching distance, Mathews played a rash shot and paid the price.

After playing four dot deliveries off Nayeem, Mathews picked up a couple of runs by nudging the fifth ball of the over towards the third man to move to 199. Mathews knew that if he fails to complete his double hundred in the final ball of the over, tail-ender Vishwa Fernando would get the strike the following over.

With just one wicket in hand, Mathews didn’t want to leave his fate up to Vishwa. He decided to go for a shot to reach his double century in that very delivery. Skipper Mominul Haque, sensing Mathews’ impatience, brought the fielders inside the 30-yard circle to stop him from scoring a quick single.

Mathews tried to slog Nayeem over the leg-side but couldn’t make the requisite connection and ended up giving a simple catch to Shakib Al Hasan at square leg.

Mathews was distraught, the Sri Lankan players at the dressing room were shocked while the Bangladesh players applauded the Sri Lankan for his marvelous innings, which ended in agony.

Nayeem peeks out of the shadow

Leg-spinner Stuart MacGill has a Test career spanning 11 years, where he played 44 Tests and claimed 208 wickets for Australia. But still, the leg-spinner is considered as one of the most unfortunate players in Test history as he spent his entire career in the shadow of the great Shane Warne. Despite of an an impressive record, he was always Australia’s second choice spinner, as Warne was always irreplaceable.

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Bangladesh’s off-spinner Nayeem Hasan’s Test career, so far, has been going in parallel of Macgill’s. Nayeem, who made his Test debut in 2018, played seven Tests before the ongoing one in Chattogram. In those matches, he bagged 25 wickets at an average of 26.24 with two five-wicket hauls.

But in spite of his promising start in international cricket, Nayeem doesn’t have a permanent position in the team, even when Bangladesh play with two specialist spinners. Mehidy Hasan Miraz is considered Bangladesh’s first-choice off-spinner for the red-ball format. The only reason Nayeem is playing against Sri Lanka in Chattogram is that Miraz is out injured.

Before the Sri Lanka Test, Nayeem didn’t play for Bangladesh in the previous three series against Pakistan, New Zealand and South Africa. Nayeem was at risk of getting lost in shuffle. Miraz’s injury opened up a chance for him to remind everyone of his quality.

On a barren pitch, the lanky off-spinner outshone veterans like Shakib and Taijul and earned his third five-wicket haul in the longest format of the game.

Although the 22-year-old off-spinner finished with a career best return of 6-105, he could very well loose his place in the team once Miraz gets fit. Nayeem still has a lot to prove if wants to get out of Miraz’s shadow and not end his career as Bangladesh’s Stuart Macgill.

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