Category: Bangladesh (page 1 of 6)

At least Moeen Ali made 99 not out

Moeen Ali and Joe Root
Imagine that today is exactly like today only Moeen Ali made a duck. There, you see – things could be slightly worse.

This isn’t so much a ‘glass half full’ attitude as a ‘there’s still something in there, I’m sure – maybe if I tip the glass the right way for long enough the minuscule droplets will gather and form something visible in the corner’ attitude.

You work with what you have. An increasingly polluted world continues spinning. As do R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, for England have managed to bat out a full day of Test cricket.

Big first innings and a game that accelerates alarmingly as it approaches its denouement. That’s our prediction.

Predictions are for fools, of course, but there are so many fools these days that the addition of another one won’t tip the balance.

Joe Root made a hundred, incidentally.


Mehedi Hasan extracts turn and respect against England’s will

We all can’t spake.

Uncertainty is the lifeblood of sport and so this series has made for compulsive viewing.

As the Test Match Special Twitter account put it yesterday.

Ah momentum. Fickle, whimsical momentum.

We started watching at tea today. England had pretty much skittled Bangladesh and sauntered to 100-0. It was way, way better than we had expected. 14 seconds later, England had lost 10 wickets and the Bangladesh players were doing a crazy bouncing dance in the outfield.

Bangladesh, Boshladesh, Kapowladesh

Shakib-al-Hasan’s been solid for years, but now that they can have Mehedi Hasan bowling at the other end, Bangladesh have gone up a level. As we said last week, they appear to have reached a tipping point. They’re no longer looking to merely compete. They now see a way in which they can win. Flat Bangladeshi pitches may become a thing of the past.

Mehedi took 19 wickets in the series. That’s the kind of contribution which could easily prove decisive over three matches, let alone two. We likened him to Muttiah Muralitharan last week in terms of his importance to the side and the workload he’s likely to shoulder. This win feels very much like the time Murali took 16 wickets against England in the one-off Test in 1998.

Before that moment, even if England often said the right things about Sri Lanka, their actions (one-off Tests) told the true story. Respect had been not so much earned as demanded at knifepoint.

Throughout this series, pundits have spoken about getting young players into the England side to see what they could do ahead of the India series. The subtext – that the Bangladesh Tests were of far less significance – was obvious.

Now, as the England team exits the country with a draw, there will be a moment of ‘wait, what?’ among some people as they realise what has taken place. You never know, this might even mark the moment at which people stop routinely taking out scores against Bangladesh when presenting players’ Test batting averages.


England derailed by their own sickening wrong-handedness

With hindsight, maybe England should have picked more right-handers. None of their left-handed batsmen passed 20, while all of their right-handers did, bar Steven Finn. Quite why people think it’s acceptable to do things left-handed is beyond us.

Bangladesh are working their way into a strong position. This is no mean feat when you consider they lost nine wickets for 49 in their first innings. If only the first of those nine had come just a little bit sooner. Tamim Iqbal’s first innings appears to be growing in size by the session as everything else shrinks around it.

Six years on and Tamim remains Bangladesh’s best batsman (against England, at any rate). He is, of course, a left-hander. Maybe England’s cack-handers should have just played better.

 


Why Gary Ballance’s return to the England side was too easy for him

Photo by Sarah Ansell

First, the match situation for context. Tamim Iqbal and Mominul Haque batted on an absolute road; everyone else took strike on a minefield. The two Bangladesh batsmen are geniuses/the only ones who’ve batted sensibly; all the other batsmen have been absolutely woeful/undone in very challenging conditions.

And now onto Gary Ballance, because whatever the truth of today’s innings, he’s now made one fifty in 11 innings since being recalled to the side.

Batsmen do sometimes have slumps, but you aren’t generally brought back in anticipation of one.

The return

The problem, perhaps, is that there wasn’t really much of a case for bringing Ballance back in the summer. By doing so, England arguably negated the positive effects of dropping him in the first place.

Because make no mistake, dropping someone can work. If a player finds himself bumbling along going nowhere in Test cricket, it’s no good to anybody. The notion that a big innings is ‘just around the corner’ starts to fade as the player in question struggles to inch their way towards that corner, let alone round it. Dumped back in county cricket, they have a bit of a cry and then slowly set about making corrections.

In this situation, we generally hear about some technical change or other, but we’d argue that in most cases it’s just as important for the change to serve as the physical foundations for renewed confidence and certainty.

Batsmen rarely fail because of just one flaw, but “I’ve made a visible change and it’s working,” can provide a major mental boost in addition to the (often small) practical one.

It takes a while for physical changes to bed in

But confidence and certainty will often take longer. You get oddities who will master something in the nets and instantly feel like they’re back to their best, but most players will need to see a few big numbers next to their name to convince themselves that they’re back on an upward curve.

Gary Ballance never got this. His confidence started to slip during the 2015 World Cup and in the English summer that followed, he found himself hanging by his fingertips. Unable to haul him up, team management did the decent thing. They stamped on his fingers and told him to find a way to clamber back up from the bottom. This is what he set about doing.

But he never finished

If England are on the tenth floor, Ballance reached the fourth floor before someone was sent down to get him. Often, a player who fights his way back into the team is shot-through with confidence because it’s been a real struggle and he’s made an unarguable case to return to the side.

Gary Ballance is not such a player. His return was too easy.

As we said about James Taylor in 2014, the optimum moment to select a batsman is not when he thinks he deserves a place in the side; it’s when he’s completely irritated because he can’t quite believe he isn’t getting a game.

There’s an art to timing a recall. You’ve got one guy who thinks: “This is a nice surprise – I was only up to the fourth floor,” and another guy who’s spent God-knows-how-long trying to prise open the tenth floor window. When it’s finally opened for him, he says “about bloody time” with a face like thunder. Which would you want in your team?

The England boot is again hovering above Gary Ballance’s fingers. If he doesn’t have as far to fall this time, that also makes it harder to bounce back.


Zafar Ansari is almost certainly batting too high

Earlier today, we took issue with England’s willingness to make bold prophecies. However, we rather shot our match-previewing bolt yesterday, so we’re now going to have to commit much the same crime simply so that we have something to say.

We are guessing/predicting that Zafar Ansari will be (a) playing and (b) batting too high in the second Test. We think he’ll come in ahead of Chris Woakes (if he plays) and Adil Rashid (if he plays). We think this is wrong.

Ansari averages 31 in first-class cricket with a large proportion of those runs made in the second division. He has made three hundreds.

Woakes has made nine hundreds and averages 37. Adil Rashid has made 10 hundreds and averages 34. Both have played the majority of their cricket in the first division. You might argue that they’re a bit older than Ansari – but we put it to you that sometimes older players are also better batsmen.

The cause of this anomaly, as far as we can tell, is that Woakes and Rashid have been picked as bowlers, whereas Ansari has been picked as an all-rounder. Team management have therefore understandably concluded that Ansari is the better batsman – even though he isn’t.


Gareth Batty – the winter bike

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

There seems to be a tendency in some quarters to perceive England’s Test tours of Bangladesh and India as being one long competitive outing.

They are not. They are separate. For all the talk of ‘taking a look’ at players ahead of England’s arrival in India, there is a Test to be lost this week and a series to be drawn.

England won the first Test by 22 runs. That isn’t much of a margin to be toying around with – particularly being as the home side has now played more Test cricket inside the last week than it did in the whole of the previous 12 months. They may improve.

The England management are hopefully aware of this, recognising that this match is not an early salvo, but a decider. We will therefore take it on trust that any changes to the side have been made to improve it, or at the very least to keep it to a similar standard without wearing bowlers out.

Stuart Broad seems likely to get a rest that seems more a preventative measure than a necessary break. If his floppy hair doesn’t slick with sweat and impede his performance, Steven Finn should be an appropriate replacement.

Zafar Ansari is also tipped to be on the receiving end of ‘the nod’. There’s no reason to believe he won’t bowl as well as Gareth Batty did in the first Test and he’s a better batsmen, so again this seems acceptable enough. His quickish left-arm spin could be very important in India too.

Batty seems to be perceived as a sacrificial old bike that no-one’s much interested in looking after. They’ll put some winter miles on him, set him aside to rust, maybe wheel him out again when the weather’s really bad and basically just do whatever the hell they feel like until it’s time to take him to the tip. The Yorkshireman, for his part, is delighted to be getting a bit of fresh air and so seems perfectly happy with this arrangement.


Why Bangladesh are potentially having a reasonably well-attended party

Bangladesh fan in Bristol (CC licensed by Synwell via Flickr)

Bangladesh fan in Bristol (CC licensed by Synwell via Flickr)

Twenty-two runs – England’s winning margin – is not a lot. You can splice and dice it however you want. It’s a bunch of thick edges to third man. It’s a handful of extra runs from your lower order across two innings because you’ve picked countless all-rounders. It’s less than the value of a dropped catch.

So while they may have lost, it’s clear that Bangladesh’s upward curve has attained credible height. More than anything, they seem to have reached a tipping point where it makes more sense to go for a win than play for a draw.

For most of their Test history, Bangladesh have played on flat pitches to give their batsmen a chance. Their batsmen have usually been worse than the opposition’s though, so this wasn’t really all that productive. For this series, the approach made even less sense. The home team’s one advantage over England is that they appear to have better spin bowlers, so the pitch became a turner and the batsmen were left to make the best of things.

The Bangladesh team as a whole is stronger nowadays. People have been looking out for a special player who could burgle Test matches for them. It’s not gone like that. Where once they relied on a couple of hit and miss players, they now have 11 hit and miss players. A greater proportion of hand-raisers, if you will.

Bangladesh have more potential party attendees. Sooner or later, they’re going to have a knees-up.


ITV4 Test highlights programme begs a few questions

itv4-logo

Yesterday we let you all know that ITV4 are broadcasting Test highlights for this Bangladesh v England series. We suggested that if you missed the programme at 7pm then you might be able to catch it via ITV’s on-demand service. We may have misled you there. Doesn’t look like it’s gone on.

So did anyone actually see the programme? We found it fascinating. The commentary is provided by Ed Smith and Jonathan Trott and… that’s it.

Presumably the pair of them are holed up in some sort of commentary hovel in a squalid London suburb – but how does it work beyond that? Are they talking their way through every hour of every day of the Test? That’s quite a shift. They must be driving each other mental.

In theory, the production team could put the visuals together and then the two of them could commentate over just an hour of footage, but that would make it harder to hit that 7pm deadline and we’re pretty sure you’d also be able to tell. There would be a distinct that-thing-we-already-knew-happened-just-happened tone to it all.

Maybe they pace themselves, ignoring dot balls and singles and only opening their mouths when something eventful happens. You’ve still got to stay alert though. Even the umpires get some sort of rest every other over.

We’re fascinated to see what state they’re in by day five. Trott will be fine, obviously. He’ll just mark his guard, pick up his mic and press on. Smith though… we reckon Smith could snap.


Mehedi Hasan is no Murali

Mehedi Hasan is making his debut. Bangladesh saw fit to give him the Murali role.

Younger readers might think that ‘the Murali role’ is all about being brilliant and freakish and baffling people with magic, but there is a more prosaic aspect to it too. For much of his career, the boggle-eyed, flexi-limbed one-of-a-kind was obliged to bowl half of his side’s overs and take at least half of the wickets.

Being a genius can be bloody hard work.

We daresay the role doesn’t become easier when you’re not actually a genius. Mehedi Hasan isn’t a genius. He does however appear to be a pretty fine bowler on this minimal evidence. If he continues to open the bowling and monopolise an end, he might also end up with a shoulder every bit as loose as Murali’s by the end of what could prove to be a 20-year international career.

From England’s perspective, 258-7 was a decent salvage operation. While it’s hard to say whether that score’s any good or not until Bangladesh bat, we are still concerned about this generation of England batsmen.

Most will have rarely faced decent spinners in county cricket and until this season they will most likely have been countering them on seaming pitches anyway.

In the coming months, it’ll be interesting to see whether England Lions tours and the like have papered over these cracks. Much of the plaster in our kitchen was applied onto wallpaper, which just goes to show that despite what people think, you can achieve a lot with this sort of approach.


ITV4 are showing highlights of the Bangladesh v England Test matches

itv4-logo

Just a quick public service post to say exactly what we’ve just said. ITV4 have got an hour-long highlights programme for each day of the two Test matches between Bangladesh and India.

Tonight (Thursday) it’s at 7pm and having just scrolled through the listings, it’s also 7pm for each of the four subsequent days of this match.

A word of warning though. If our experience with ITV4’s cycling highlights is anything to go by, you’d do well to avoid relying on their on-demand service over the weekend – it sometimes takes a while before episodes show up.

In summary ‘series record’ is the order of the day if that’s an option to you. Failing that, you might want to watch the ‘live’ highlights or on-demand will probably be okay most days.


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