Category: Bangladesh (page 2 of 8)

England go with a bit of right-arm fast-medium

Soumya creams a Ball ball (ICC)

Soumya creams a Ball ball (ICC)

‘Will four right-arm fast-medium bowlers be sufficient?’ England apparently asked themselves before the opening match of the ICC Champions Trophy.

‘No, better make it five,” they concluded, for reasons that were clear to no-one.

It was very odd. One of the few things we said about England’s likely strategy for this tournament was that they seemed very keen to field a varied attack. They had a left-arm swing bowler, a leg-spinner, a fast bowler and a finger spinner to offset the inevitable right-arm fast-medium.

So what did they do for the first match of the tournament? They picked five – FIVE – right-arm fast-medium bowlers, binning their left-armer and the leg-spinner who’s been taking all the wickets and playing all the games.

That number of right-arm fast-medium bowlers again: five.

And yes, we have reclassified Mark Wood as fast-medium for this assessment – because once you have four right-arm fast-medium bowlers, 5mph of extra pace really isn’t enough to distinguish you from the rest of them.

Much is said about England’s batting line-up. That’s the thing everyone seems to get all het up about, as if 300-plus scores are still some kind of unusual thing that only England have mastered. We’ve regularly heard that the batting is great and the bowling poor – but that’s really not the case.

What people overlook is that England have been putting out a bowling line-up that is shaped to defend large scores. That sounds stupid on the face of it, but it isn’t.

If you’re defending a low score, you need several bowlers ideally suited to the conditions, whereas when runs are there to be had – as they so often are in modern one-day internationals – no type of bowler will be ideally suited to the conditions. In these instances, variety can buy you a crucial advantage.

Worryingly, England started looking a bit fast-medium today.


Steve Smith’s brain fades still further, Bangladesh do the reverse

Bangladesh have won nine Tests and we make this their second win.

The convention is to remove matches in which Bangladesh feature from all Test statistics. This seems unduly harsh at the best of times, but it seems even more so when it’s them who you’re measuring.

Nevertheless, in the spirit of omission, we’ve stripped away all of their Test victories that might be disregarded for one reason or another and we’ve been left with their win over England last October and this one against Sri Lanka. Truly, it is Bangladesh’s Golden Era.

For the record, the Tigers’ other seven wins comprise five against Zimbabwe and two against one of those stand-in West Indies teams, which on this occasion featured luminaries such as Omar Phillips and David Bernard.

Meanwhile, over in Ranchi…

Steve Smith has suffered another horrendous brain fade, leading to grave concerns about his long-term mental health. Smith calmly held his bat out of the way of a ball pitching outside leg, only for it to hit his off stump.

If this brain fadery continues at its current rate, it will be but weeks before he’s entirely forgotten how to execute his magnificent double-elbowed chicken dance bowling action. As this is the only aspect of Steve Smith’s cricket in which we take any pleasure, we’d be keen for him to seek psychiatric treatment post-haste.


The South hit the North and the great flattener

Hit the North cover

One of the few things that people agree upon about the lyrics of The Fall’s Hit the North is that one of the first lines is “my cat says eeeeee-ack”.

So what can we agree upon about the South’s hitting of the North’s bowlers today? That it was more successful than the North’s hitting of the South’s bowlers, we suppose.

As for the relative northern- and southernness of these supposedly representative sides, we remain unimpressed. The birthplaces of the North’s batsmen – Hong Kong, Kent, Transvaal, Cumbria, Shrewsbury, Bristol – don’t hint that too many of them would pass our patented ‘butter-bath’ test.

Because what is the supposed North-South divide about, if not monophthongs?

Elsewhere, SHAKIB AL HASAN earned himself a bit of impulsive upper case usage after making a hundred and giving Bangladesh a first innings lead over Sri Lanka. He’s one to watch. Mark our words.

New Zealand and South Africa are also Testing each other. Looking at the scores so far, we’re hoping the pitch is hinting that it might be the kind of flattener on which Nathan Astle did his thing. You never know.

 


Bangladesh three long sessions away from Test series victory over India

Relatively speaking. Escape with a draw and that’s basically a win for the tourists, isn’t it? And being as it’s a one Test series, that would also mean a Bangladesh series victory. Again, relatively speaking.

Three sessions seems an awful long time when you’ve only got seven wickets left though. Three fifth day sessions. Three fifth day sessions with R Ashwin bowling at you. When you’re Bangladesh.

So, in other words India are seven wickets away from victory. In fact, being as most of you will read this on the daily email which won’t go out until mid-morning on Monday, check the scorecard – India have probably won.

It’ll be funny if they don’t though. All these big India tours this season and Bangladesh were the ones who stood the best chance of escaping with a draw.


Shakib al Hasan’s Test double hundred and its perfect ending

Sometimes we forget that you haven’t all been reading this website since day dot. It’s been over a decade since we tipped Shakib al Hasan for greatness so chances are a great many of you won’t know what a big deal it is that he made a Test double hundred against New Zealand this week.

If Shakib’s still not exactly a household name, he was all but unknown back when we tipped him. We’re talking Cricinfo-didn’t-even-know-his name obscure. Was he Sakib al Hasan, Shakib al Hasan or Saqibul Hasan? Having already used up our full allocation of precognition, we initially went with Sakib al Hasan before switching to Saqibul Hasan when it seemed more likely that was the one that would stick.

Cricinfo also had him down as a medium-pacer back then. We did at least work out that that one was wrong.

After 217 off 276 balls, Shakib’s Test batting average is now 41.39. That’s unspectacular in isolation, but combine it with a bowling average of 32.37 and it’s actually really rather special.

Shakib also saw fit to draw his innings to a close by succumbing to another Cricketer of the Realm, The Great Neil Wagner. Test innings don’t come much better than that.


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 2016 return to the England side was too easy for him

Photo by Sarah Ansell

England dropped Gary Ballance before the third Ashes Test of 2015 after a run of form that wasn’t actually all that dreadful with the benefit of hindsight. He had passed 30 once in his last 10 innings and had been bowled five times. People said he struggled against good quick bowlers.

He came back into the side in 2016, played six Tests and was quite brutally dropped again. Then he played two more against South Africa and was dropped again.

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

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 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 got to finish

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?

Conclusion

Long term, bringing Gary Ballance back into the Test team in 2016 did his confidence – and therefore his form – no good at all.


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.


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