Ones to Watch in Bangladesh
I've written before about my frustrations surrounding the upcoming Bangladesh tour and I'm still gutted that I just can't bring myself to go out there in spite of this FCO advice: "There is a heightened threat of further terrorist attacks. Attacks could be indiscriminate although foreigners, in particular westerners, may be directly targeted. Crowded areas and places where westerners are known to gather may be at higher risk of attack."
I know the team will have bumped up security but by sticking together and informing the Bangladeshi authorities of their accommodation plans, England fans become the very 'place where westerners are known to gather'. So I'll be sticking to the sofa and looking out for the players hoping to make their mark on the series.
For England, Haseem Hameed seems to be directly challenging Alex Hales' place at the top of the order. With a first class average of 48.50 from 20 matches, his stats speak in his favour and Hales seems to have dented England management's faith in him with his unwise show of dissent at The Oval in the final Test of the summer.
For Bangladesh, 21 year old Taksin Ahmed has recently had his bowling action cleared by the ICC in Brisbane and is back in the Tigers' squad for their ODIs against Afghanistan. If he impresses, he could be offered a Test debut against England.
Tamim Iqbal has seen a resurgence in his performances since his explosive entry to international cricket was followed by a slump in form; 80 off 89 balls against Afghanistan signalled his intent and we can expect at least one big innings from him, I think. His Test average is pushing 40 from 80 innings and his experience will be vital as the hosts try to make the most of the home advantage the pitches and weather conditions will give them.
Shafiul Islam is far less experienced, having played only 8 Tests, but with a high score of 53 he may be able to frustrate England, as lower order batsmen so often do. His previous performances suggest that his bowling will be far less damaging.
Shakib Al Hasan also has the power to wound England, with bat and with ball, and once again his experience will be vital if, as expected, he plays in October. And finally, Taijul Islam whose 8 Test matches have already landed him 3 five-fers and who could trouble our batsmen in much the same way as they have been troubled in the UAE in recent times.
Bangladesh play many more ODIs than Tests and the level of experience in their squad is affected as a result. They don't have the strength and depth of the larger Test-playing nations, which will make it particularly interesting to see how their players adapt from white to red ball cricket.
Whatever the circumstances off the pitch, I'm looking forward to seeing Bangladesh continue to develop as a Test cricketing force and England continue to test themselves away from home, not least in preparation for the following series in India.