Test cricket, you beauty. You are still alive. Your naysayers who swallow with each bite the vague idea that you’re a thing of the past, know not they’re gobbling a lie.
In an age siding with smashing white-ball cricket that so often usurps the importance of Tests, the West Indies tour of Bangladesh served an important reminder.
Never say never in red ball cricket; even in the era of unprecedented technological support, the one thing no living eye or hawk eye can predict is the outcome of a Test match.
Fans of the West Indies who would surely have loved the fighting first inning display with the visitors posting in excess of 400 would have been crushed by the utter failure in the fourth inning.
Taijul, Mehidy, Jayed hovering over the West Indians like vultures surrounding their prey.
Yet, to have a lead is one thing, regardless of the first inning gap being a respectable 113.
But for a team failing to touch even 150 in the next inning especially when it had amassed a tall first-inning score was bitter.
West Indian fans would’ve been rendered distraught.
You couldn’t possibly be overstating, by saying heartbroken.
With a smashing win in the previous game and having batted for 142 overs in the first go, what were the West Indies even doing as they bundled out inside 52 overs?
Did they suddenly forget to put bat to ball?
Not Nkrumah Bonner though; just imagine where might his team have been had he not made himself accountable for 38 of his team’s 117 runs?
Rare are circumstances where each day of a Test culminates in riveting results.
But just like that hurried Kyle Mayers single that stirred countless smiles in the cricketing world resulting from the mega first win, the smiles suddenly belonged to Bangladesh on Day 4.
With well over a day left to play and only 231 to get, surely anyone thinking Bangladesh wouldn’t win and square the series was high on substance abuse.
What was yet worse for the West Indies was the idea to find something to keep themselves occupied with on the final day had Bangladesh cruised along on the penultimate day.
But this was no drab contest; it was hard-as-nails Test match stuff where no soothsayer even with a Nostradamus bloodline could’ve predicted the outcome.
A contest that changed gears akin to the an unstoppable race car, hosts Bangladesh subduing West Indies up first, only for the visitors to rise to the very top, your mind didn’t once wander outside of the Shere Bangla.
For all that belonged inside the confines of a majestic venue belonged to the team to which very few runs, and perhaps, even little hope belonged.
The West Indies didn’t just bowl out Bangladesh seventeen runs shy of a very gettable target; they reminded fans perhaps preoccupied elsewhere with two mighty forces of the game taking on each other that it’s often these small forces that produce big magic.
Small in experience, in the team composition, but not in ability.
And the man around whom the West Indies secured what shall be remembered as the famous Mirpur heist was their giant.
A 5 for 74 in the first inning followed by 4 for 105 in the second innings.
Never afraid to toss the ball, never afraid to step back from the normal course like bowling deliberately quicker ones or curtailing the flight.
The more Bangladeshi batsmen took him on, Mehidy Hasan striking two huge sixes in the dying moments of the game, the more Rakheem Cornwall backed himself.
A giant not just in physicality but in the compelling commitment to his craft.
After removing the dangerous Mithun and Liton Das, Cornwall kept coming at the Bangladeshi lower order, hanging by a little thread of hope and on Mehidy, of course, to pin down the West Indies.
Though, there was support at both ends, in Warrican, responsible for perhaps one of the most important dismissals in Mominul Haque, as also in part timer Brathwaite’s off-spinners, which removed the openers, it was Cornwall who stood up and made himself counted.
Think of it: of the ten wickets that fell, Rakheem Cornwall accounted for six dismissals, which included two brilliant catches at the slip.
And for times to come, one shall remember the one who denied what could so easily have been West Indies’ despair had the tenth wicket stand not been brought to a halt at 213.
On the third delivery of the 61st over, as Warrican presented a tossed up one around the off to Mehidy, who until such time been the main threat, the batsman could only succeed in offering a low chance to the stationary first slip.
But it didn’t take Cornwall, 6’ 4, any more than a nano second to dive forward collecting all of Bangladesh’s last wicket hope in palms that have offered boundless reassurance for the West Indies.
And it’s these unbeatable moments, the West Indies being down and out with Bangladesh flying at 59 for no loss at one stage that propel hope that Test Cricket will continue to outlive its critics.
And that it packs quite a punch despite battling an age where little is reserved for five days of sweat and toil contests and ever so more for fashionable wham-bam leagues mushrooming all over.
Those who spared little for a contest that didn’t have the symbolic ‘Big series’ appeal can shift focus elsewhere with plenty happening elsewhere in the subcontinent.
But those who stayed on to witness an inexperienced but brave West Indies wear down a very promising Bangladesh can maybe write on their social media walls- Test cricket you beauty, you’re still alive.