Sri Lanka v Bangladesh, 2nd Test, Colombo, 4th day March 18, 2017

Mustafizur of old resurfaces in yo-yo spell

The left-arm seamer has struggled since returning from a shoulder injury, but a break and two first-class outings may have rekindled his success

Play 04:05
Isam: Mustafizur bowled really well to the right-handers

There were oohs and aahs, along with a bit of head-holding, in almost every over bowled by Mustafizur Rahman on the fourth day, especially in the second session. And not only from the slip cordon but also from people in the stands, the press box, and in all likelihood from those watching on TV too.

Kusal Mendis pressed forward to drive, but saw the ball wobbling around and played it softly. He resisted the temptation to drive off the next delivery too, and left the third outside off as well. Another defence and a leave followed, and one ball remained in the 45th over from Mustafizur. The last delivery came into the right-hander with the angle from around the wicket before curving away ever so slightly. Mendis played at it.

The wicketkeeper and the slip cordon appealed, but there was nothing more than a polite inquiry from Mustafizur. The umpire said not out and, after Bangladesh reviewed, replays suggested nothing decisive. But the TV umpire heard a noise as ball passed bat and overturned the decision. Mendis was unhappy on his walk back and Mustafizur had given Bangladesh a big breakthrough.

***

Mashrafe Mortaza says a captain doesn't need to be in Mustafizur's ears all the time because he believes it could affect the bowler's thinking. For someone who has a bagful of tricks, Mustafizur uses variations quite tactfully, but things haven't been as smooth as they were before a shoulder surgery in August last year.

The Mustafizur who burst through against India in 2015 wasn't to be found in New Zealand, and the team management gave him a break after he complained he wasn't feeling fine. There were whispers that 'IPL fever' had got to him, with the T20 tournament slated to begin in the first week of April. It was all hearsay.

After Mustafizur was essentially dropped for the one-off Test in India in February, he played two first-class games and took four wickets. One umpire remarked that the batsmen had found it tough to negotiate Mustafizur's pace, a trait he isn't known for. Was he ready for another tour?

***

During the first Test in Galle, Mustafizur showed glimpses of the bowler he was when he first emerged in 2015. But in these times the opposition sorts you out quickly. He finished his first Test in 18 months with three wickets, but bowled a late spell that may have gone unnoticed. The pace wasn't striking because he had found his groove through his delivery stride, pivot and release to bowl his cutters.

Here at the P Sara, Mustafizur's run-up looked less ginger, his action less hesitant, and his delivery stride more powerful. Most indicators signalled a return to form. All he needed was a performance.

***

After taking Mendis' wicket, Mustafizur kept forcing Dimuth Karunaratne and Dinesh Chandimal to drive by bowling full and straight. Chandimal was sucked into one and was caught behind, reward for pressure that had been built up through the spell.

He bowled even better to Asela Gunaratne, but Shakib Al Hasan reaped the reward at the other end. Dhananjaya de Silva looked to play Mustafizur on reputation and gave him respect, but fell to the drive anyway, perhaps because he was caught in two minds.

Mustafizur's spell read 7-1-24-3, and it was as effective as it was fun to watch. He literally made the ball dash around like a yo-yo. Even more astonishing was the manner in which he got the ball to reverse, a factor that could be key on the final day against a lower order that will have to start from scratch.

Another effective, and fun, Mustafizur spell could be the difference between a fairly comfortable chase and a nervous one.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sharir5619170 on March 19, 2017, 12:56 GMT

    Mustafizur played very well...Keep it up...U r like Wasim Akram...All u need is a Waqar Younis to support u...

  • laksvi5642713 on March 19, 2017, 4:22 GMT

    This guys is a star, as a neutral indian fan, i enjoyed watching him bowl....just like SL's chameera...a future star....i hope he gets the proper training and the BD setup take care of him....he is going to serve BD for a long time.....good luck from an indian fan

  • Manik on March 18, 2017, 22:46 GMT

    Hope BD take care of him. Mushy did a good job resting him in the last session. We do not want to over work him.

  • Tonmoy on March 18, 2017, 19:55 GMT

    He needs to be more stronger, however, the rhythm I saw in him today was really astonishing, it is great to see your favourite fast bowler getting back his rythm. Best wishes for Mustafiz......

  •   BahrumRocky on March 18, 2017, 18:19 GMT

    He will be a great player to remember in our world cricket. But I think BD is missing another first bowler from other end to support Fizz or utilize the pressure created by Fizz. Good luck polite boy for your gentle future.

  •   Series Analyzer on March 18, 2017, 18:10 GMT

    He is building his fitness day by day and would come with more strength very soon once he feels free of fearless.

  • No featured comments at the moment.