Pacemen put India on top despite Mahmudullah's 96

DHAKA: Mohammad Mahmudullah cracked an unbeaten 96 under pressure but failed to stop India from gaining an upper hand in the second and final Test against Bangladesh in Dhaka on Sunday.

Bangladesh were wobbling at 51-5 before posting 233 in their first innings, thanks to lower-order batsman Mahmudullah who kept the Indian attack at bay with a gutsy 156-ball knock.

India raced to 69 for no loss in reply at stumps on the opening day, with Virender Sehwag (41 not out) and Gautam Gambhir (26 not out) at the crease.

The visitors were indebted to pacemen Ishant Sharma (4-66) and Zaheer Khan (3-62) for restricting Bangladesh to a modest total. Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha was the other main wicket-taker with 2-49.

India's bowlers were superbly supported by wicket-keeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who took three catches and two stumpings after missing the previous Test due to an injury.

"Our plan was to create pressure. The wicket was a bit damp and we bowled in the right areas," said Sharma.

"The first hour was helpul for the bowlers and I think it was really a good toss to lose. We bowled very well against them. We needed to take those early wickets and that's what we did."

Bangladesh were 106-6 when Mahmudullah walked in to bat, but India had to struggle for the remaining wickets as he put on 58 useful runs for the ninth wicket with Shafiul Islam, who contributed only nine.

Mahmudullah was on 80 when last-man Rubel Hossain joined him but could manage only 16, including 11 in an over from off-spinner Harbhajan Singh. He hit 13 fours.

Harbhajan finished the innings when he bowled Rubel for his lone victim, leaving Mahmudullah just four short of his maiden Test hundred.

"I am not disappointed (at missing the century). In the end we got a good total and I always like to contribute to the team's cause," said Mahmudullah.

"I tried to bat as long as possible. That was my plan. They have very good bowlers and we played some bad shots. If we take three or four early wickets tomorrow, they will be under pressure."

Most of the Bangladeshi batsmen failed to apply themselves, with Mohammad Ashraful (39), skipper Shakib al Hasan (34) and Mushfiqur Rahim (30) all getting out when looking well-set.

Ashraful and Shakib both fell to rash strokes. Ashraful stepped out to attempt a big shot off Ojha, missed the line and was stumped, while Shakib was caught behind chasing an away-going delivery from Zaheer.

Rahim, who added 55 for the sixth wicket with his captain, was trapped leg-before by Sharma after hitting six fours in his 61-ball knock.

India gained an early advantage when they left the hosts reeling at 84-5 in the morning session, with Zaheer and Sharma taking two wickets apiece and Ojha one.

Ashraful hit six fours in his 31-ball knock, while Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique and Raqibul Hasan all failed to reach double figures.

Bangladesh's batting problems began immediately after winning the toss when Sharma had Kayes caught by Dhoni with his first delivery of the match.

Zaheer bowled opener Iqbal with a delivery that came in sharply and then had Siddique caught behind to reduce the hosts to 13-3.

Sharma's second victim was Raqibul Hasan, caught by Rahul Dravid at second slip after making only four.

India lead 1-0 in the short series following their 113-run victory in the opening Test in Chittagong on Thursday.