Chittagong: Indian bowlers could not go for the kill and let their opponents off the hook by allowing Bangladesh to nearly match their first innings total in the first cricket Test here today.
In reply to India`s below-par first innings total of 243, the hosts were in tatters at 98 for six before Mohammad Mahmadullah (69) and Mushfiqur Rahim (44) stitched together a crucial 108-run stand for the seventh wicket that proved the cornerstone of the hosts` innings which eventually folded at 242.
India then consolidated their position with a strong start in their second essay, reaching 122 for one at stumps with Gautam Gambhir (47) and nightwatchman Amit Mishra (24) in the middle.
Even though they have lost stand-in skipper Virender Sehwag (45), the world number one team is sure to push for a victory with two days to go.
Earlier, Zaheer Khan (3/54), Amit Mishra (3/66), Ishant Sharma (2/47) and S Sreesanth (2/55) destroyed Bangladesh even though the total could have been even smaller.
Stand-in skipper Sehwag was out for a 58-ball 45 which he made with the help of four boundaries and a six half an hour before the close.
Mishra provided the late sparks with some lusty blows off Mohammad Ashraful, Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmadullah.
Sehwag and Gambhir applied themselves on a wicket which seemed to be turning out to be a flat track as the match progresses, mixing caution with aggression to ensure that India end the day on a good score without losing to many wickets.
Sehwag opted for a more cautious batting instead of his typical quick-fire innings, waiting for the loose balls to hit the boundaries.
He hit a six off his opposite number and left-arm spinner Shakib Al Hasan in the 17th over of the Indian second innings but perished four balls later while trying to hoick the same bowler only to hole out to Raqibul Hasan.
Gambhir too seemed to be looking to make amends for his first innings failure as he played the balls on merit and hung around for a bigger knock.
Earlier, the Indian bowlers used the helpful morning conditions due to overcast conditions to claim three quick Bangladeshi wickets and reduce the home side to 98 for six.
With the pitch easing out as the sun shone brightly, Mahmadullah and Rahim defied the Indian bowlers for one-and-half hours in the post-lunch session without success.
If the Indians ran way with honours in the morning, most past of the middle session belonged to Bangladesh.
The stand between Mahmadullah and Rahim came up with a defiant stand to frustrate the Indians.
The duo scored at a good pace, raising their 50 stand in just 66 balls. They picked most of their boundaries off an erratic Sreesanth and raised their 100 from 152 balls.
Mahmadullah, who was in fine form during the tri-series, was the more aggressive of the duo hitting boundaries off Mishra and Zaheer with some exquisite timing. He reached his fifty from 76 balls with the help of eight fours.
But just as Bangladesh threatened to overwhelm India`s total, the visiting bowlers struck back with four wickets in 6.1 overs to bundle out the home team for 242 which they made from 65.2 overs.
Leg-spinner Mishra triggered the sudden end with the wicket of Rahim who was looking good for a big innings five overs before tea. The Bangladesh wicketkeeper-batsman fell while going for a big hit against the turn only to get a thick edge and hole out to Sehwag at mid-wicket.
Mishra then had Shahadat Hossain in the last over of the post-lunch session with the batsman offering a simple catch to Yuvraj Singh at point while going for a lofted drive.
India needed exactly two overs after tea to polish off the Bangladesh tail with Mahmadullah and Shafiul Islam being dismissed in the space of three balls.