A dog's life for Bangladesh
Posted in England v Bangladesh
A playful puppy yapping at its owner’s ankles was the image that sprung to mind when England finally shook off Bangladesh at Lord’s.
The outcome of the opening npower Test may have been entirely predictable, and the 9,200 people who saw England sweep to victory shortly before tea yesterday could hardly claim great surprise.
However, a quick glance at the scorecard fails to tell the story of a match in which Bangladesh pushed their hosts surprisingly hard, demonstrating in the process that they will not be the whipping boys many expected this summer.
Captain Andrew Strauss and team director Andy Flower made all the right noises in the aftermath of a victory that at times was far from certain, insisting they did not underestimate a side who are languishing a long way adrift at the foot of the International Cricket Council rankings.
England encountered enough stubbornness on their tour of Bangladesh in March to know that making plans for the fifth day of this Test was presumptuous, but there must surely have been an element of shock at the extent of the minnows’ resistance on a ground where they lost by an innings and 261 runs in 2005.
Despite amassing 505 in the first innings after being asked to bat, an England victory was far from certain until the final morning, when Steven Finn sparked a Bangladesh collapse that left the hosts chasing just 160 to win in two sessions.
England's concern peaked on the fourth day, when Tamim Iqbal blazed his way to one of the greatest Test centuries this ground - or any other for that matter - has seen.
His innings of 103 off 100 balls will be a lasting memory for those privileged enough to witness it first hand, and was the most wonderful example of the spirit in which he and colleagues go about their cricket.
Gordon Greenidge-style hooks and flashing drives through and over cover were interspersed with wild swooshes outside off stump that met only thin air. A smile was never far from his lips throughout.
In a week of unsavoury allegations and writs being served between the game’s power-brokers, it was a timely and refreshing reminder why we play the game.
That Tamim and company are able to demonstrate the sort of joie de vivre that is normally the preserve of children too young to care about the consequences, is astonishing, given their atrocious record at Test level - 58 defeats in 67 Tests - and the constant criticism it attracts.
Their problems have been well documented, a shoddy first-class structure and lifeless pitches prominent among them.
Their latest display, and the two Tests against England on home soil, at least serve as evidence that Bangladesh are moving in the right direction, with batsmen proving themselves capable of occupying the crease for sustained periods of time.
Tamim’s blistering second-innings assault was preceded by an almost equally entertaining 55, while Junaid Siddique passed 50 twice in the game and Imrul Kayes, the final member of the top three, contributed 118 runs. They batted for a combined total of nigh on 16 hours in the match.
Siddique’s dogged 74, which spanned more than four hours across the last two days, may not have matched Tamim’s blitzkrieg in terms of entertainment, but, as a symbol of Bangladesh’s defiance and a yardstick for their future health as a Test nation, it was no less important.
Ultimately, they were undermined by a two collapses - they lost their last five wickets for 61 in the first innings and their last seven for the same amount second time around - and, crucially, a lack of penetration with the ball.
Discipline was also in short supply as England cruised along at four runs an over on the first day and beyond, and for as long as Bangladesh are unable to unearth at least two seamers capable of landing six balls in a row in the same area, it is difficult to see where their next Test victory will come from.
Contrary to popular belief, Bangladesh have won three Tests, but those successes came at the expense of Zimbabwe - hardly a cricketing superpower and one since banished from the Test fraternity - and twice against a second string West Indies side thrown together following a players’ strike.
The likelihood is that they will depart Old Trafford next week with another notch in the defeats column but, on the evidence of the past few days, anyone heading to Manchester can expect to be entertained.