Lax England still in pole position
England remain well placed to record a comprehensive win over Bangladesh in the opening Test despite not having everything their own way on the third day in Chittagong.
England bowled their hosts out for 296 thanks to Graeme Swann’s five-wicket haul, but Mushfiqur Rahim made them work harder than they might have expected and helped persuade Alastair Cook not to enforce the follow-on.
Cook was one of the casualties as a rather carefree England reached 131 for five by the close, with three wickets in the space of five overs late on giving Bangladesh some much-needed respite following two chastening days.
If Cook’s decision not to ask Bangladesh to bat again was seen by some as unduly cautious, that his side boast a mammoth lead of 434 heading into the penultimate day means the Tigers’ hopes of avoiding a crushing defeat are no less distant.
The most pertinent question is when Cook will declare tomorrow and unleash his newly-rested bowlers on a Bangladesh side that, with the odd exception, has looked beaten from the moment Shakib Al Hasan won the toss and put England in to bat on Friday.
The visitors’ attack was inconvenienced by Mushfiqur’s spirited rearguard, but his was the second of three wickets to fall in the space of four balls during a thrilling climax as England, belatedly, hurried through the tail.
Resuming on 154 for five with their chances of challenging England’s daunting first-innings 599 for six all but non-existent, the hosts’ prospects of avoiding the follow-on appeared slim, to say the least, after Tamim Iqbal and Shahadat Hossain perished inside the first hour.
Mushfiqur, however, orchestrated a recovery from the depths of 183 for seven, dominating a 112-run stand with Naeem Islam for the eighth wicket. England, it is worth mentioning, did not help their cause with two dropped catches.
It took a sensational catch from substitute fielder James Tredwell to remove Mushfiqur for 79, the delivery after an equally impressive piece of fielding from Michael Carberry had seen Naeem run out for 38.
Swann followed up his dismissal of Mushfiqur by bowling Rubel Hossain, earning him admirable figures of 5-90 from 29.3 overs, and England’s superiority was such that their late collapse is unlikely to have any bearing on the result.
Tamim was the chief source of England’s frustration yesterday as he led a thrilling counter-attack, but he added just five to his overnight 81 before falling in the day’s third over.
It took a splendid delivery to end what had been a scintillating innings, Tim Bresnan angling the ball in from round the wicket and finding appreciable movement away from the left-hander to beat the outside edge and clip the top of off stump.
Nightwatchman Shahadat may have shown little inclination to get in line - he was, predictably, peppered by short deliveries as a result - but by the time he fenced Steven Finn to Paul Collingwood at second slip, he had batted for more than an hour.
The lower-order subsidence predicted by many did not materialise, for which 22-year-old Mushfiqur can take immense credit.
He endured a miserable time with the gloves during the England innings, yet batted with great skill and no little character either side of lunch.
Although he enjoyed the odd moment of fortune, most notably when Collingwood dropped a regulation chance at second slip off Stuart Broad when he had made 61, there were numerous strokes of authority.
Swann came in for the harshest treatment, cut through point, drilled back over his head, clipped over midwicket and swept powerfully as Mushfiqur went to a 90-ball half-century containing 10 fours.
Naeem also demonstrated considerable application in an unenviable situation, and helped negate the threat of the new ball during a 39-over alliance which left Cook searching for answers to a rare problem in his first Test as England captain.
While Naeem was also reprieved - on 13, when Swann failed to get no more than fingertips to a fierce straight drive - he managed the occasional authentic drive before eventually succumbing to Carberry’s athleticism.
Mushfiqur steered Bresnan to third man, but he failed to scamper the first run as quickly as Naeem, who was subsequently sent back as he chased a second. The wonderful slide, pick-up and throw from Carberry, who made excellent ground from backward point, left Naeem well short of his ground.
Mushfiqur fetched the next delivery, bowled by Swann, from well outside off stump, but Tredwell - on the field briefly for Cook - took a stunning one-handed catch diving to his right at short midwicket to spark joy in the England camp and earn himself an ovation from his team-mates when he returned to the dressing room moments later.
Swann gained further reward for his willingness to toss the ball up when Rubel played down the wrong line two balls later.
Cook, emboldened by a 303-run first-innings lead, provided the early impetus to England’s second innings, only to fall for 39 when he swung Mahmudullah to the fleet-footed Aftab Ahmed at deep square-leg.
Jonathan Trott pulled a Shakib long hop to square-leg and Kevin Pietersen hit five fours and a six in his 24-ball 32 before being trapped lbw on the sweep.
Carberry, having batted with the minimum of risk in making 34, perished attempting to work Abdur Razzak to leg, and Collingwood’s departure - caught at mid-off courtesy of a miscued drive as he charged the slow left-armer - capped an unseemly conclusion to the day for England.
Their superiority was such that it should make no difference to the outcome.
The new Brit Insurance 2010-11 official England Cricket Team kit will be available to pre order from April 1 via ecb.co.uk, and in store from April 29