ENGLAND’S SHAKY SUB-CONTINENT ODYSSEY
Bangladesh a resurgent team, a team with self-belief and talent. England had to play good cricket to beat them in their home soil. With the form England is in ODIs, they were favorites to win the series. But Bangladesh, since November 2014 had won 6 one-day series at home, so England winning the series was a fantastic start to the tour. The ODI series started at Dhaka with England winning the toss and batting first. Jason Roy gave a reasonable start; Stokesy hit his first ODI hundred (101) and debutant Ben Duckett (60) shared a partnership of 153 runs along with Jos who smashed 63 with 4 sixes helped England reach a total of 309. Bangladesh fought hard with Imrul Kayes making a knock of 112 but Jake Ball on his debut took a match-winning five wicket haul reducing Bangladesh from 5-271 to 288 all out, England winning the match by 21 runs. The second ODI, England bowled superbly leading to Bangladesh collapsing for 238. However, England failed to chase it – Mortaza bowled England out for 204 and levelling the series. The decider at Chittagong was indeed very challenging, after England restricted Bangladesh to 277 with Adil Rashid taking 4 wickets for 43 - his best career figures. Ben Duckett and Sam Billings shared a match winning partnership along with Ben Stokes' 47 to cruise to victory and clinched the series. It was nice to see England win, Buttler showed exceptional capability as a captain in Morgan’s absence; it really shows how much we have improved, just last year we lost our chance in the WC quarters losing to them.
But to expect, Bangladesh to arrive in Test cricket was a wonderful surprise. With West Indies who are not in the same force as they were in the 1970s and 1980s and with Pakistan not playing India, Test cricket only seems to get less relevant over time. It was special for Bangladeshi and England fans to see them secure a convincing win. To win Test matches, any team would need bowlers to take 20 wickets. With the new crop of bowlers, Bangladesh look a formidable side. England and Bangladesh were neck to neck in the first Test; the Bangladeshi bowlers especially Miraz who took a 6-fer didn’t make life easy for England. Bairstow (52) and Moeen (68) led England to a total of 293. Ben Stokes being the Firestarter he is, bowled unbelievably well taking 4 wickets for just 26 runs. Bangladesh’s lower middle order collapsed for 248. In both the Tests, the top order was very disappointing. Root and Cook – the two main batsmen had a quiet series, scoring just one fifty in four innings. Stokesy again, reminded all the fans, about the marvel he is. The way he batted (85), was truly amazing. For England, to have somebody like him is a real blessing. His knock gave Bangladesh a target of 286. Very rarely do sides show fight and almost come close to winning a Test while chasing in the fourth innings but Bangladesh did so. Because of all the experience England has and a bit of luck, they pulled it off winning the Test by 22 runs.
The second Test was clearly dominated by Bangladesh, England however were on the upper hand on Day 1, bowling Bangladesh out for 220 but no Test’s result can be judged by one innings. However, 220 looked like a huge total till the 99-run partnership which actually looked too distant after Root’s dismissal. Bangladesh took control of the innings and the Test, giving England the target of 273. England had a great start with Cook and Duckett scoring fifties each but the game changed the first ball after tea; 19-year old Mehedi Hasan Miraz was excellent and caused an abysmal collapse of 164. In less than two hours, Bangladesh celebrated a historic and wonderful victory. This series showed that Bangladesh are on the go to be a very competitive test nation. For more test cricket over here in the future, they need strong Test competitors - sides shouldn’t focus at the security concerns and abandon tours here. For England, this series was a warm-up for the series against India; we have a lot to improve in less time but with the experience many players have in Indian conditions I wouldn’t write them off. Can’t wait, here is to an entertaining winter!