This is going to be a rarity – a blog post from me with no pictures. Please note that although I am a native of one of the countries involved in the Test Match that has just concluded and that is the basis for this post I am writing as a cricket fan first and foremost.
THE FINAL MORNING
At 4:45AM my time the alarm went off, and I tuned in to the coverage of the final day’s play in the first Test Match of the two match series between Bangladesh and England. The situation when darkness ended the fourth days play was that Bangladesh needed 33 to win with two wickets standing. Going into this match the two teams had met eight times in the test arena and England had won all eight, most by ridiculously large margins. The first question to be answered was who Cook would ask to bowl first up, and the fact that his choice fell on Broad and Stokes, the two fast men, and that no one seriously disagreed with said choice on a pitch that has offered serious turn for the entire duration of the match has to count as an indictment of England’s three front line spinners in this game, Batty, Rashid and Ali and by extension of the lack of decent spinners playing in English cricket at the moment.
Bangladesh added 10 runs to their overnight total before Ben Stokes had an LBW appeal against Taijul Islam turned down, sent it upstairs (the 25th time in this game that on on-field decision had been treated thus – easily a new record, the previous highest being a mere 19). For the 11th time umpire Ravi concluded from the evidence he studied that his on-field colleague had made the wrong decision (and for the eighth of those 11 times the on-field umpire involved was Kumar Dharmasena) and Bangladesh were nine down. Two balls later Shafiul Islam was struck on the pads, the finger was raised, the decision was inevitably reviewed, but on this occasion it was deemed to be correct and England had won, with Sabbir Rahman stranded on 64 not out.
If that match was to end in an England victory it was only appropriate that the final wickets should fall to Stokes whose match figures of 6-46 (4-26 and 2-20) were paired with a total match aggregate of over 100 runs, including the highest individual score of the game, 85 in England’s second innings, making the recipient of the man-of-the-match award clear cut. It was also in keeping with this match that it should finish with a decision being reviewed and therefore that it was the TV replay umpire who actually confirmed the final result.
BOWLER FRIENDLY PITCH PROVIDES A MAGNIFICENT MATCH
The pitch at Chittagong has been a curio in a more than one way. It has turned from the first, batting never being easy. It has also reversed the normal in that the spinners have been most dangerous with a new ball and the quicker bowlers more dangerous with an older one – to the extent that the reason England did not take the new ball this morning although they were entitled to was that they had decided to start with two quickies – had they trusted their spinners taking the new ball would have been obvious.
This match was fascinating throughout because it was not high scoring, and because the bowlers were always in the game.
CONGRATULATIONS AND COMMISERATIONS TO BANGLADESH
The heading for this section is not a contradiction – I congratulate Bangladesh for a spirited effort over the whole course of the game and for coming very close to recording their first ever victory over a major test nation (their seven test victories to date have been five against Zimbabwe and two against a West Indies riven by internal strife). It would possibly have been better for cricket as a whole if Bangladesh had actually won, but there is a single solitary counter-argument: this being a two match series if Bangladesh had won no one could then have blamed the groundsman at Dhaka where the second match will take place for preparing a pitch to make Adelaide Oval look like a terror track, whereas in the actual situation it is virtually obligatory to produce a pitch with some life in it.
THE REST OF ENGLAND’S WINTER
After the second and final match of this series (for the record I would make a rule that no series should contain fewer than three matches, my disapproval of ultra-short series being that strong) England head to India for a five match test-series. It is very likely that every pitch England encounter there will turn viciously from moment one, and England cannot rely on Stokes, magnificent cricketer though he is, to dig them out of every hole they find themselves in. The spinners will need to earn their keep for these six matches.
Bangladesh came very close to making history in Chittagong. I hope for their and cricket’s sake that they succeed in scaling the summit of Mt Improbable in Dhaka, which match starts on Friday. This Test Match was Bangladesh’s first in a period of fourteen months – they need to be given more test matches. Another issue raised by the England schedule outlined above is that quite clearly Bangladesh were perceived as being a decent warm-up for the main event in India. They have done enough over four and a bit days in Chittagong to suggest that in the not too distant future a series against Bangladesh could and should be regarded as a serious event in its own right.I end with a couple of links to cricinfo: