Bangladesh went into the Test match with no pacers and four frontline spinners while Afghanistan themselves play just one fast bowler.
The one-off Test match is not even a part of the World Test Championship, yet as soon as the toss was completed at Chattogram for the Test between Bangladesh and Afghanistan, it caught the attention of the cricketing fraternity.
The reason? There was only one pace bowler among the 22 players named by Bangladesh and Afghanistan combined. While Afghanistan chose to play Yamin Ahmadzai, Bangladesh decided to go with four front-line spinners and a slew of part-timers with no frontline pacer.
The new ball was taken by Taijul Islam and Shakib Al Hasan, the first time in the history of Test cricket that two left-arm spinners were bowling the first two overs of a Test match.
#1 Taijul Islam
#2 Shakib Al Hasan
For the first time in Test history, two left-arm spinners bowled the first two overs of a match. #BANvAFG
— Sampath Bandarupalli (@SampathStats) September 5, 2019
While Rahmat Shah's hundred and Asghar Afghan's knock on Day one put Afghanistan in a position of strength, Bangladesh, it must be said, made a bold, positive move by fielding an all-spin attack, a rarity in Test cricket.
In their last Test match at home, against West Indies at Dhaka last year, Bangladesh had again played the very same spin quartet and won by an innings and 184 runs. In that Test match, 27 of the 30 wickets to fall fell to spinners while the two West Indian pacers took three wickets combined.
In the Test before that at Chattogram, Bangladesh fielded Mustafizur Rahman as their lone pacer and he ended up bowling just four overs across both innings in the Test match. The spinners picked up all 20 wickets for Bangladesh as the hosts won by 64 runs.
Taijul, Shakib, Nayeem Hasan and Mehidy Hasan are a potent force at home. Add in Mahmudullah and Mossadek Hossain and Bangladesh have a full pack of cards at their disposal in terms of spin.
They are also statistically justified to play all spinners in a Test at home. Since 2015, in Tests in Bangladesh, pacers have taken a total of 104 wickets at an average of 34.66. Pace bowlers bowled only a total of 1200 overs in 16 Test matches since 2015.
In the meantime, spinners have taken 350 wickets at an average of 29.35. They strike at a rate of 54.2 as compared to pacers who strike at a rate of 69.2. The host spinners have contributed to 196 of these 350 wickets and average an impressive 28.57 with 15 five-wicket hauls.
If they are to get just four overs from a pace bowler in a Test like what happened when they last played a pacer at home in a Test, it certainly is justifiable to field an all-spin attack.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / STR