The time is ripe for Test cricket to take centre-stage after a T-20 extravaganza which involved the IPL and the World T-20. And what better advertisement can Test cricket get, than the start of the traditional English summer. The hosts, England are on a roll after winning the World T-20 in the West Indies, beating Australia emphatically in the final.
They were flawless throughout the tournament, which made many believe that the team can go the distance by winning not just the Ashes in Australia this year, but also the 50-over World Cup in the Indian subcontinent next year. Thus, England begins their preparations of the upcoming tough winter season, by facing Bangladesh at home first up in 2 Tests.
On the other hand, Bangladesh had a poor World T-20 as they were knocked out in the first round itself. And on this tour, they even lost their warm-up match against the England Lions, making their job of competing against a confident English team, even more difficult. However, Bangladesh is improving for certain and with a top-quality player like Shakib al Hasan as their captain, they stand a chance of at least a fighting draw, if not a win at Lords, where the first test is being played.
Playing at Lords in London, is a dream for any cricketer in the world. After all, it is the ‘Home of Cricket’. However, at the same time, it can build up pressure to those same excited cricketers who are looking forward to make an impact at the venue. And that exactly sums up the first day of the first Test for Bangladesh.
Shakib al Hasan won the toss and made a baffling decision to bowl first in good batting conditions. This was a perfect opportunity for England to put up a huge score against a Bangladesh side whose average age is just 22. And England did exactly that.
The skipper Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott, batting at No.3, put up a 181-run partnership for the 2nd wicket after Alastair Cook fell early for just 7 runs, being lbw to Shahadat Hossain, perhaps the spearhead of the Bangladesh attack in the absence of the experienced Mashrafe Mortaza.
Strauss didn’t look like he had taken a break for 4 months as he batted like the way he does, that too at his home ground and by far his favourite, Lords. The England captain scored 83 runs of 129 balls until he played a lackluster shot to get clean bowled of Bangladesh off-spinner Mahmudullah.
Trott hung on the other end as he saw the wickets of an in-form Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell falling. Pietersen, who won the man-of-the-tournament award in a successful World T-20 campaign, was expected to make a big score again, even if Test cricket is a different ball game.
He was looking in great touch until it was Shakib al Hasan, who once again dismissed him. It was great captaincy as he took advantage of Pietersen’s weakness against left-arm spin, which was evident in Bangladesh as well.
England was perhaps missing the ‘rested’ World T-20 winning captain, Paul Collingwood as his solidarity would have helped in the situation. But Trott continued to bat till the end of the day, scoring a brilliant 175 not out at the end of the first day’s play, his first Test hundred at Lords and the second of his career, after the Ashes-winning hundred at The Oval in the same city on his debut last year. He looked so comfortable at the crease that it was a complete contrast of his woeful batting in South Africa last season.
Trott’s batting also helped the debutant, Eoin Morgan play his natural game. Morgan wasn’t nervous on his debut at Lords and he carried his good form in the West Indies in this game. He was on the verge of getting a half-century as he was stranded on 40 not out at the end of the day with England at 362/4 in 90 overs. Bangladesh didn’t bowl exceptionally well, and it was more of the mistakes committed by the English batsman rather than the brilliance of their bowlers that got them the four wickets.
After a poor first day, the visitors had a better second day. Even as Trott completed a glorious double-hundred, Bangladesh was able to pick up wickets regularly. Morgan missed out on a half-century by adding just 4 runs from his overnight score of 40. Tim Bresnan, who is a Freddie in the making, showed that he can bat well.
Unfortunately though, he was adjudged out on 25 of a good Shahadat delivery and an exceptional catch by Junaid Siddique at first slip. Graeme Swann was in an attacking mode, like he usually is in when he bats, but it didn’t help his team much as he took a risk of the bowling of Shakib, giving the skipper his second wicket.
By then, Bangladesh was confident enough to bowl out England as Trott too departed after an outstanding 226, batting for nearly 11 hours. And they did so successfully as Shahadat Hossain as his name was ready to be put up on the famous Lords honours board for picking up five wickets in an innings, in the process being the first Bangladeshi player to achieve this feat. It was a decent comeback from Bangladesh but there was more to come.
Bangladesh’s openers Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes must have been told by their skipper to go out hard at the English bowlers. And that’s exactly what they did. James Anderson, by far England’s top pace bowler, was rusty on his return. He didn’t play a single game in the World T-20 in the West Indies.
This cost England dearly as his bowling made Andrew Strauss run out of ideas. England were also missing Graham Onions, who is out for three months due to a knee injury and has been the ideal for opening the bowling with Anderson in Tests over the last year or so. Stuart Broad has been rested, and arguably he is England’s in-form bowler at the moment.
Hence England’s bowling attack in this match lacks the potency which was so much in abundance as seen in the Ashes series and in South Africa last season. However, these can’t be excuses as Tamim Iqbal batted really well and was set for a huge score until he went for a risky single and was run out by Kevin Pietersen for a quick-fire 55 runs of just 62 balls. The first-wicket partnership itself was of 88, and Iqbal was supported well by Kayes who scored a well-deserved 43.
At the end of the second day’s play, both the openers fell, leaving both a confident Junaid Siddique, who also scored a fifty and a sedate Jaharul Islam unbeaten at the crease with the score being a surprising 172/2 in 53 overs. If the weather doesn’t play truant in the next three days of the test, this could turn out to be a cracking contest.
Something which even the most ardent Bangladeshi supporter wouldn’t have hoped for against England in England after a disappointing series the last time around, in 2005!
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