Harare: A strong all-round performance from Zimbabwe gave them a slender advantage in what has been a competitive Test match so far. The hosts batted their way to an 83-run first-innings lead after their bowlers put on an aggressive performance against Bangladesh's middle and lower order and extended that to 175 by the close of play, though they lost four wickets in the process.
Bangladesh would have been disappointed with their effort while batting. Their batsmen were able to negotiate Brian Vitori's movement and Kyle Jarvis' pace, but eventually fell prey to poor shot selection and lapses in concentration. Mohammad Ashraful, who had batted with a rare circumspection on day two, survived two chances in the first hour; a confident lbw appeal and a catch that wasn't taken off a mistimed pull shot over gully's head. Despite flirting with danger, he brought up a determined half-century with a confident cut through point.
Mahmudullah negotiated the attack with equal patience but then tamely pulled a short ball - one he should have sent over mid-wicket - to square leg. His departure brought Shakib Al Hasan to the crease, who formed a strong partnership with Ashraful. The pair ran well between the wickets and dealt with the persistent short-pitched bowling from Elton Chigumbura and Chris Mpofu in authoritative fashion.
Ashraful looked set to bat for the rest of the day but gave his wicket away trying to run a short ball past slip, succeeding only in getting an edge through to Tatenda Taibu. With Shakib switching to anchor mode, Bangladesh would have still eaten lunch with some ease, despite being 170 runs behind at that stage.
They returned to a more hostile Zimbabwe attack that had the new ball available to them after seven overs. Mpofu, who had bowled a containing line with the old ball after lunch shared the new ball with Vitori, who was getting impressive movement. Both bowlers started off bowling too short, but it didn't cost them much. Shakib become the first victim when he came forward and edged an Mpofu delivery that was not full enough to drive.
With the Bangladesh captain gone, the bowlers alternated full deliveries with bouncers and forced Abdur Razzak to contend with a good line as well. He didn't last long and was out lbw to a Mpofu full toss that struck him low in front of middle stump. Mushfiqur Rahim was playing a patient knock but after negotiating a flurry of short balls, eventually played a lethargic pull and was caught at deep square leg.
Jarvis finally claimed his first Test wicket, bowling Shafiul Islam with a full delivery that held its line and sent the offstump tumbling out of the ground. Rubel Hossain had some fun, sending a ball flying over the slip cordon for four and another through mid on but he was the last man standing when Robiul Islam was out lbw to the ever effervescent Ray Price.
Having watched Bangladesh's batsmen struggle, Zimbabwe's openers made a cautious start as Shafiul and Robiul Islam were more consistent than they had been in the first innings. They mixed up their full deliveries with their short pitched ones. In the first ten overs, Tinotenda Mawoyo and Vusi Sibanda had scored just 25 runs.
But when Shakib al Hasan introduced spin early and brought on Abdur Razzak, he failed to apply the same pressure as the seamers, with Sibanda lofting him down the ground for a straight six. Mahmudullah replaced him but lasted just two overs, as he did in the first innings, before Shakib brought himself on.
Rubel was the most impressive of the Bangladesh quicks, and bowled at decent pace with good control. His eventual reward came from an average delivery though, a short ball that was there for the pull. Sibanda obliged but was caught at midwicket. Mawoyo was judicious at the other end, choosing to leave deliveries outside the offstump, but after a short break in play, had his offstump uprooted by a Robiul delivery that sliced is way into the gap between bat and pad.
The late wickets of Hamilton Masakadza, who gifted Shakib a caught and bowled, and Ray Price, who was out lbw to Razzak, gave Bangladesh's bowlers something to be cheerful about at the end of the day, and dragged them back into a game that been slipping away from them.