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Magnificent Rishabh Pant, Steady Shreyas Iyer Put India In Command

Mirpur:  Rishabh Pant enhanced his reputation as the team’s biggest game-changer with a scintillating 93, putting India in a commanding position to complete a series clean sweep against Bangladesh on the second day of the second Test here on Friday.

Pant, who got out in the 90’s for the sixth time in his Test career, again brought his ‘A’ game to the fore with a counter-attacking knock that formed the corner of India’s first innings score of 314.

Between lunch and tea, the match which seemed to be hanging in balance was singlehandedly changed by Pant, whose 104-ball innings had seven fours and five huge sixes — a few of them being one handed lofts.

Shreyas Iyer, who has been very consistent since his Test debut last year, also batted with a lot of intent but missed his second hundred of the series, getting out for 87 off 105 balls.

Riding on the 159-run fifth wicket stand between Pant and Iyer, India, who were left tottering at 94 for 4, will fancy their chances for a fourth-day finish and consolidate their position in the World Test Championship table.

Trailing by 87 runs, Bangladesh were seven for no loss at stumps on Day 2 but batting will only get difficult on the third day and playing Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel on this track will be a Herculean job.

If the morning session belonged to Bangladesh’s left-arm spinner Taijul Islam (4/74 in 25 overs), who had rocked the top-order with wickets of skipper KL Rahul (10), Shubman Gill (20) and Cheteshwar Pujara (24), by the end of the afternoon, Pant struck like tornado, blowing the hosts away.

It only helped Iyer at the other end, who was equally aggressive and a surface that looked difficult to bat on suddenly appear to be a willow wielder’s paradise.

Pant literally manhandled the Bangladeshi spin troika by smashing five sixes — two off Taijul, a couple off Mehidy Hasan Miraz and one off skipper Shakib Al Hasan.

India were in trouble at 94 for four when Virat Kohli (24, 73 balls) once again nicked one off Taskin Ahmed outside the off-stump channel before Pant propelled the Indian innings.

But Taijul was made to look pedestrian by the maverick keeper-batter from Rourkee.

Pant hammered Taijul into submission by repeatedly dancing down the track and carting him either in the arc between the mid-wicket and long-on or by lofting him down the ground.

The most exhilarating one was a one-handed down-the-ground shot off rival captain Shakib. And it was not at all surprising when he repeated the stuff off Miraz over long-on for a 100-metre long maximum.

The Bangladeshi bowlers, who were pumped up at the lunch break, had drooped shoulders by the time tea was called.

Pant’s beast mode did rub off on Iyer as he also lofted Miraz for his first six and duly completed his second half-century of the series with a single.

By the time, Pant nicked one to Nurul Hasan behind the stumps, missing out on yet another Test hundred, he was completely done and didn’t come out to keep after experiencing cramps.

Earlier, having misread the track on day one, Rahul paid the price for his ultra defensive mindset on a pitch that offered fair bit of turn on the opening day itself.

Not for once during his 45-ball stay did he look comfortable, save the cover driven boundary off a seamer at the start of the day.

Gill, on the other end, looked more assured even as Taijul kept his deliveries on good length and bowled a nice trajectory.

The delivery that got Rahul, seemed like an armer that came in with the angle and then straightened enough to trap him in-front of the wickets. Umpire had dismissed the LBW plea but Bangladesh got the decision in their favour after taking DRS review.

In case of Gill, it was more of a straightforward decision where he was caught plumb as he missed a straighter one while attempting a sweep shot.

Pujara looked assured till the time he was at the crease but with the deliveries stopping and turning, there was always the danger of negotiating that ball which would send him back.

(With Agency Inputs)

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