Cook quids in as Shakib counts cost
Posted in England in UAE and Bangladesh
It may not have the same ring to it as Hussain in Brisbane or Ponting at Edgbaston, but Shakib Al Hasan’s decision to put England in to bat in Chittagong surely ranks among the most foolhardy made by a captain in recent years.
If any doubts that he had not done the right thing remained in the Bangladesh skipper’s mind this morning when England resumed on 374 for three, they were surely blown away by Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell.
They were the chief beneficiaries on another day of almost unchallenged England dominance with the bat, making 145 and 84 respectively to propel the tourists into a formidable position.
Indeed, to say that Shakib endured a testing day in the field would be untrue, for it took England less than two sessions to convert their overnight total into a daunting 599 for six.
Such was their mastery with the bat that one could not help but feel sympathy for the likes of Adbur Razzak and Shakib himself as they were deposited to and over the rope by Collingwood and Bell during a ferocious assault which preceded the declaration shortly before tea.
They say captaining your country is the best job in the world, every boy’s dream etc etc, but it is unlikely Shakib will have felt the same way as he nursed figures of 34.3-4-133-1.
However, it is unfair to apportion all the blame for Bangladesh’s miserable showing with the ball to a put-upon 22-year-old taking charge of only his fifth Test.
There were mitigating circumstances: the absence of injured strike bowler Mashrafe Mortaza and the shock retirement of batsman Raqibul Hasan on the eve of the series, an unhelpful pitch, a woeful fielding display and the general propensity of his players to let their heads drop.
Perhaps we should not expect much more from a team whose oldest player, Razzak, is just 27 (no-one else is older than 24), and Shakib and company must learn from this experience (although coach Jamie Siddons has been exasperated by their failure to do so on numerous occasions in the past).
There are nuggets of promise for Bangladesh: Rubel Hossain possesses genuine pace from a slingy action, Shakib was until recently rated the world’s best all-rounder, and Tamim Iqbal and Mahmudullah showed late on today that the batting cupboard is far from bare.
But they continue to be hindered by a lack of discipline with the ball - they managed just nine maidens in 138 overs - and, more obviously, a carefree attitude with the bat.
As well as Tamim and Mahmudullah batted during a fourth-wicket partnership of 94 in 18.1 overs, and however much they thrilled a partisan crowd at the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium, the fact that Mahmudullah was attempting to reverse-sweep Graeme Swann with his side 85 for three and 514 in arrears said much about their state of mind.
As it was, he later became the second batsman to perish on the conventional sweep, and Shakib’s personal misery continued when he was bowled attempting an extravagent - not to mention reckless - cover drive to Swann in the penultimate over of the day.
If Shakib could be forgiven for treating his job as a poisoned chalice, England captain Alastair Cook has enjoyed a near-perfect start to his reign.
Admittedly, skippers have faced with much tougher baptisms than taking on the lowest-ranked Test nation, although it is worth noting that England hardly have a glittering record on the sub-continent.
Having scored heavily in a 3-0 whitewash in the one-day series, Cook top-scored for England with a Test-best 173 in this contest, and the only disappointing aspect on his part was his failure to record a double hundred.
He could then sit back and watch Collingwood and Bell build on the platform he did so much to lay, although he did have the added burden of standing up and calling his batsmen in half an hour before tea.
Stuart Broad, passed fit following back trouble, provided his skipper with two early wickets, and even Cook's first bowling change, bringing on Graeme Swann after 11 overs, reaped immediate dividends. (On saying that, Swann’s penchant for taking a wicket in the first over of a spell is such that it barely matters who captains the side.)
Tamim at least taxed Cook with the sort of thrilling assault that he will remember from the limited-overs campaign, and removing the opener is sure to provide Cook with the greatest test of his captaincy mettle tomorrow.
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