Cook seals whitewash in grand style
England recorded an ultimately comfortable victory over Bangladesh in the second Test, and with it the accolade of a clean sweep at the tail-end of an arduous winter.
In a satisfying climax to his first series as captain, Alastair Cook led England’s successful pursuit of 209 on the final evening in Mirpur, carrying his bat for a commanding unbeaten 109.
The tourists raced to a nine-wicket win, with 10 overs to spare, as Cook and Kevin Pietersen, who made a rapid 74 not out, did as they pleased in an unbroken 167-run partnership.
All that would suggest a facile triumph and a depressing continuation of Bangladesh’s woeful Test record, which now reads at 57 defeats in 66 Tests.
But, the last hour aside, this was no meek surrender. England were made to fight for much of these five days, and will board their flight home from Dhaka tomorrow congratulating themselves for the removal of Bangladesh’s brilliant captain.
Had Shakib Al Hasan managed to prolong his gallant innings any further, England may not have had enough time. In the event, they secured the best part of two sessions to chase a modest target against limited bowlers.
The game was in the balance at start of play, with Bangladesh 95 runs ahead and four wickets intact. Any ambition England’s batsmen had of getting to the middle before lunch proved fanciful, as Shakib played a blinder.
When he and Shafiul Islam, scourge of the first innings, joined for a stifling seventh-wicket stand of 63, home hopes were raised.
The nightwatchman repeatedly carved and swept Graeme Swann, and played one sweet cover drive to the boundary. Shafiul had his fair share of luck, escaping a top edge behind square-leg.
Shakib hardly wasted an opportunity against anything loose, though the bouncier new ball did cause him a few problems.
In its first over, he played two uncontrolled hooks off Stuart Broad, the second of which almost saw him fall to an excellent effort by Jonathan Trott in the deep. The sprawling fielder got his left hand to the ball, but lost control when his elbow hit the turf.
Trott held on comfortably a second time when Shafiul picked out deep midwicket trying to hit James Tredwell over mid-on.
Naeem Islam briefly threatened to hold up England for the fourth time in the series, prompting Cook to tempt him with three fielders halfway to the on-side boundary. The trap worked; having faithfully blocked 25 balls, Naeem lost his head and picked out Pietersen at a wide mid-on.
After a short battle, Abdur Razzak provided the third wicket of the day, struck on his front leg wandering across his stumps to Steven Finn.
Razzak’s departure left Shakib with only Rubel Hossain for company, and that was clearly a factor in his approach after lunch.
Shakib slog-swept the first and fourth balls of Tredwell’s over for four, taking him to within four runs of a second Test century.
But Tredwell, in a canny move, saw the left-hander come charging down the wicket and dropped it short, allowing Matt Prior an easy stumping.
Shakib felt shamed, but hauled himself up from the dirt in an attempt to rouse his troops in the dressing room. Twenty-three years old today, he is already quite a cricketer.
Shakib’s wicket was just reward for an intelligent display from Tredwell on debut. He claimed 4-82 from 34 overs to go with his two first-innings wickets.
More importantly, it left England 54 overs in which to chase 209, a relatively straightforward ask on a docile pitch.
Their only setback was the loss of Trott after an opening stand of 42, to a curious decision from the TV umpire.
Cook took a misjudged single to Jahurul Islam at cover, who turned and threw back to wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim with Trott scampering in.
The visual evidence appeared to be inconclusive when the decision was sent upstairs to Nadir Shah. There was not a frame available to him showing that Trott was short of his ground, but Shah erred on the side of probability. No man would wish to be hung on that evidence.
Thereafter it was a cakewalk for England as boundaries arrived almost at will, even with the field spread.
Pietersen used the opportunity to warm up for the Indian Premier League, narrowly escaping an audacious switch-hit which almost brought his downfall before settling in to play some wonderful shots. None was better than a straight six off the chronically out-of-touch Razzak.
Cook, meanwhile, continued his rejuvenation with his noticeably straighter backlift. He played with authority to leg, and cut anything short from Bangladesh’s ragged spinners.
His 12th Test hundred arrived in the 41st over, and victory followed 12 balls later with his 11th four of the innings.
Cook and England deserve great credit for sticking to their task on an unhelpful pitch in searing heat, which was especially harsh over the first three days.
Yet it was Bangladesh’s struggle to stave off defeat that was possibly the theme of greatest significance. This young team was within an ace of their finest result against a major Test-playing nation, but England were simply too strong.
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