On most occasions, whenever the Bangladeshi tail wagged, Mahmudullah had been instrumental to its success. H used to come out to bat at either number seven or eight - maneuvered the strike with occasional aggression and carried on the hopes. Bangladesh always preferred to go with a specialist batsman at number eight to add depth to their batting, but in the Chittagong Test, Bangladesh decided not to follow this tradition to which they have stuck for 17 Tests since 2009. Mahmudullah was excluded and the faith was kept in Sohag Gazi's all-round abilities.
Gazi's batting prowess is well known in the domestic circuit, but in international cricket it has been his bowling that has caught more attention. At that critical juncture of Chittagong Test's third day's play, what Gazi needed was to provide solid support to Hossain's controlled aggression, but what we all witnessed was charisma from the Patuakhali man.
A mis-timed pull shot brought the end of Hossain and Bangladesh ended the third day 89 runs behind the Kiwis. On the fourth morning, Razzak departed early as well and a useful lead for the Kiwis was on the cards. But as time progressed, the Kiwis found it tough to overcome the Gazi's resolve. He took the Kiwi bowlers to the cleaners.
Pugnacious cover-drives, eye-catching upper and late-cuts, thumping slogs through mid-wicket and down the ground had the Kiwi bowlers baffled. Gazi and Robiul Islam brought up a critical partnership of 105 runs for the ninth wicket as Bangladesh took a lead in the first innings but most importantly Gazi brought up his hundred, bringing his batting into the spotlight.
The Gazi-show was not over yet! After his dogged hundred, he created history by grabbing a hat-trick in New Zealand's second innings. The Kiwis were looking to close out their innings soon after lunch as their batsmen started to score at a brisk pace. But Gazi's sudden spell of superb spin blowing delayed their declaration.
On a track which offered nothing for the spinners, Gazi started to make the ball talk. He first outclassed Brendon McCullum - castling him just as the Kiwis were building momentum after the lead had passed 200. In the following over, Gazi created havoc. Corey Anderson was first trapped lbw and then he followed it up with two absolute gems. BJ Watling, fresh from a first innings century, was up against a ripper that bounced sharply and an evasive Watling edged it to the wicketkeeper. Doug Bracewell came out to bat and deny Gazi a hat-trick, but a vicious arm-ball kissed the edge of Bracewell's bat, popping off the wicketkeeper's pad to slip, where Shakib Al Hasan held onto a one-handed effort, triggering rapturous celebration. A hundred, a five-wicket haul and a hat-trick - Sohag Gazi had created history. He became the first cricketer in the history of Test cricket to achieve such a feat even though, last year, in the domestic circuit, he did the same eye-popping act.
Gazi is indeed a special cricketer. He may not be as talented as Nasir Hossain or Mominul Haque, but his special characteristic is his appetite to work hard and the hunger to improve every day. Since his debut against the West Indies last year, Gazi has been the most improved cricketer amongst his team-mates. Still, though, he has a long way to go to cement himself into the team. But the way he has begun, the future looks bright and rosy.
First Published: October 15, 2013, 12:29 PM IST