The Phantom Menace – Bangladesh v England Preview (of sorts)

Why The Phantom Menace. It’s a prequel to the best ones, innit?

There’s something about the commencement of a winter test tour that gets the old fires burning in DmitriWorld. It has long been a tradition of tuning into matches at ungodly hours, or waking up to news of either stirring deeds or abject failure. Of trying to piece together what might have gone on from the overnight score to the score at the time I rise from my pit. In short, it’s a bit of bloody good fun. Unless you have to write about it!

However, as is rapidly becoming apparent, the world of cricket is changing, and tests are crammed into increasingly shrinking windows. In the space of just over two months, England will play SEVEN test matches, in very hot conditions, on alien pitches to our way of playing, and with the evident possibility that we face challenges we cannot match. While this test is going on, West Indies will be playing Pakistan, Zimbabwe will commence against Sri Lanka, in a few weeks Australia face South Africa, then we meet with India not far into the future. It’s compression of the schedule and it is going to diminish the sport. Context? You don’t even have enough time to digest the last test match before one is on you like a flash.

But enough of that. England face an intriguing challenge from Bangladesh in a two test series that a cynic might say is being used as preparation for the series against India in a few weeks time. While Bangladesh still have a laughable test record, there are definite signs of improvement. Whether this is enough to mean England will have a great fight on their hand is for debate. What won’t help is that, astonishingly, this is the first test Bangladesh have played in 14 months. If Alastair Cook is worried about a lack of practice and sharpness, Bangladesh have one up on him!

Wrong captain

So to Captain Cook, leader of the troops, taking the battle to the oppo, leading from the front. This will be his 134th test, passing Alec Stewart for the England record. It’s been a long and distinguished career, but as Cooky doesn’t like talking about personal milestones, I won’t bother either.

134 Dutiful Tests

Cook is clearly the key man. From the team that played last in Bangladesh, only Cook and Broad remain. Cook’s record in the sub-continent (and including UAE) is a really good one, and his experience is going to be vital. Without him making runs, one fears for England. This tour will expose our two key weaknesses; the spin bowling has been getting the most attention, but our middle order probably is more concerning. Joe Root missed the ODI tour and didn’t seem to get much time in the middle in the practice matches. One hopes it will be alright on the night. Gary Ballance looks to be locked in at number 4, something that would have seemed unthinkable after the last series (but this was really Gary B being Gary B – because he’s not elegant, he has a technique only his mother could love, and well, he’s Gary B he doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt the dashers get). At 5 is possibly Moeen, possibly Stoke, possibly Bairstow, and there will be times when we need them to keep us afloat. This is a big tour for Stokes. He showed in the ODIs that he came to terms with slower wickets, but this is test cricket. A good start in Bangladesh seems necessary, because I think he’s a confidence player.

A sight for sore eyes….

Which leads me to the opener slot. Ben Duckett looks like getting the nod. That’s interesting. I wonder if it is the fear that Hameed will be a sort of Compton to Cook, and make our captain think he has to play a different game to his norm because the other opener might be a bit pedestrian. If that’s the reason, it’s a shame. Attrition and stickability are going to be keys in the next seven tests. Now that’s not to say I don’t want Duckett getting a go, because he looks middle order material to me in the times I’ve seen him (and I know he opens for Northants). I wish him well, like every debutant, and he’s certainly an exciting, talented prospect.

Bowling looks to be three spinners (Ansari missing out, it seems) and three seamers (Broad, Woakes and Stokes). Seriously, that could go any way you like. Broad doesn’t have a great record on sub-continent wickets, Woakes is going to be really tested, and Stokes? The spin is going to be “hands over eyes” stuff.

If England are in any way complacent, one should look at the last test played at Chittagong.

South Africa were far from having matters their own way in this match. Rain washed out the last two days of play with the test fascinatingly poised.

England’s last visit to Chittagong produced this match:

Kevin Pietersen made 99, only the second England player to make that score this century. Without looking at Statsguru, a pat on the back if you can name the other. In that match Lovejoy took 10 wickets, Mushfiqur Rahim was a right royal pain, and Junaid Siddique made a century.

Rahim made his runs from 8 in that match, whereas tomorrow he might line up at 5 or 6. Tamim and Imrul have made decent impressions in their most recent tests, and Mahmadullah always look a decent player to me. Shakib is a canny old customer. These aren’t the muppets of yesteryear. They may not be a formidable force, but they appear on the upward path. I hope we see two really good games of cricket in their own right, and not as some Jar Jar Binks warm up act for Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Ravi Ashwin and Virat Kohli.

Enjoy the test match winter (which ends at Christmas with England) and feel free to fire away as per usual. Because when you do, you put a skip in my step and the sun in my heart.

Comments on Day 1 below.



43 thoughts on “The Phantom Menace – Bangladesh v England Preview (of sorts)

  1. metatone Oct 19, 2016 / 7:29 pm

    I’m reluctant to make predictions because it is so very long since Bangladesh played a Test. If they had more recent games I’d back them to at least give England a fright – particularly b/c the England batting line up seem to get rattled by spinners now and then. As it is, so short of match play I fear Bangladesh just won’t be in the 5-day groove and will fail to post big enough scores…


  2. pktroll (@pktroll) Oct 19, 2016 / 7:41 pm

    Really isn’t an easy series to predict as you have discussed. Not only is there a strange uneasy mix to the batting line-up but the bowling choices don’t give you a great deal of conviction as to their true quality and sustainability of performance. Again England may be asking their lower order to do a job that their engine room might not. Then again as you say, it has been a long time since Bangladesh have played any test cricket and I don’t think even Shakib has played first class cricket in over a year. It will still be a good result if England come away with a series win.

    A bit of a subtext is Anderson looking likely to not be around for the India tour. If he’s not going to be available for the first test, when exactly is he going to be match fit. We had the polaver of his so called preparedness for the Pakistan test at Lord’s, but of course you can argue that it was a false economy. Anderson missing the India tour means that it could be a very long one for England unless one of the other quicks really makes a name for themselves and that the spinners turn out to be a whole heap better than we think they are.


      • Mark Oct 19, 2016 / 8:35 pm


        Does he have to put the word “writer” after his name to remind himself or more like convince himself he is a real writer?


      • Rooto Oct 20, 2016 / 4:00 am

        I suppose @edsmithplagiarist and @edsmithannoyingtwat were already taken.


  3. Escort Oct 19, 2016 / 8:37 pm

    I quite fancy England to come unstuck in one of these games.


    • Sean B Oct 19, 2016 / 9:17 pm

      I can sort of see England’s logic. Have a bit of a dasher alongside Cook to score whilst the ball is still hard and then slot Ballance in at 4 to eeek some runs out in the middle order if the attacking batting fails. I do really rate Duckett but also see him as a middle order player in years to come.

      Agree that it’s a big series for Stokes with the bat, looked all at sea in the UAE from first hand experience and we’ll soon see if the spinners have any potency in sub-continent conditions.


  4. thebogfather Oct 20, 2016 / 3:14 am

    Coffee – check
    Read ‘OutsideCricket’ – check
    No work today – check
    Back to bed with TMS – check 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Rooto Oct 20, 2016 / 3:56 am

    Are you saving up “Attack of the Clones” for the press review?
    Very disappointed to see Ballance instead of Hameed. England always seem capable of sucking some of the joy out of any situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. BoredInAustria Oct 20, 2016 / 4:43 am


    10.2 Shakib Al Hasan to Cook, OUT, Cook on the sweep, over-balances, and blimey, he’s played onto his own stumps! He departs the crease in an indignant heap, after toppling backwards, and looping the ball off his forearm and into the timbers. Undone by the sharp spin and aggression of Bangladesh’s close field. And that is an utterly vast wicket! The captain’s gone, no agenda-setting 173 for him on this visit to Chittagong!

    AN Cook b Shakib Al Hasan 4 (26b 0x4 0x6) SR: 15.38


  7. pktroll (@pktroll) Oct 20, 2016 / 6:03 am

    Only just tuned in for the last half hour and it’s looked rather tricky unless your name is Joe Root.. I’m actually unsure if, looking at the way the pitch has played whether or not that 81-3 at lunch is actually that bad a score given what has transpired. If Root does bed in and get a big score, and his conversion rate has been disappointing, then the match situation at best might not be that bad for England. I didn’t think it would be too easire game this time out and it certainly would have been worse than that if it wasn’t for Root so far.


  8. Adam H Oct 20, 2016 / 7:29 am

    While it’s great to see Bangladesh making England batsmen sweat, I don’t think a pitch that turns square from the first session of day one is fit for test cricket.


    • Mark Oct 20, 2016 / 8:10 am

      I would agree completely Adam.

      However this is what happens when you encourage “home advantage pitches.” If it’s ok for the ECB to be emailing groundsman and telling them what to prepare, and producing bright green seamers from day one, you can’t complain when we go to the sub continent.

      Pitch preperation is like terrorism. One mans terrorism is another mans freedom fighter. Once you start messing with pitches it becomes like an arms race.

      Liked by 1 person

    • BoredInAustria Oct 20, 2016 / 8:12 am

      I thought this was preperation for India?


  9. Mark Oct 20, 2016 / 8:29 am

    Englands middle order bailing them out again. Do England even need a top order these days? Perhaps we should just pick 4 bowling all rounders in the first 4 positions. Without Bairstow, England would have had a pretty lousy year batting wise.


  10. Keeper99 (@PaulKeeper99) Oct 20, 2016 / 9:30 am

    Ali gone after a decent effort. I was expecting very dull wickets out here so at least these conditions are good prep for India. Will just have to see if our spinners are anywhere near good enough.

    For the cricketing anoraks amongst us Ali’s flirtations with DRS today have been most exciting. He has not only survived 4 LBW reviews (including 3 in 6 balls) he has been pardoned through one missing the wicket, one being edged, one impacting outside the line and one pitching outside leg. Like some sort of full hand in poker.


  11. Keeper99 (@PaulKeeper99) Oct 20, 2016 / 10:55 am

    Lots of tweets about Bairstow’s extraordinary year (and he batted really, really well here). There’s been the suggestion that he feels he needs to keep to bat well, while Bayliss would like him as a specialist and get Buttler back in the team. People talk about how being a batting/bowling all-rounder gives players the freedom to fail knowing they’re still in the game but haven’t seen it applied to a keeper before. With the failure of the top oder o such a regular basis it may be an issue that needs addressing at some point (if indeed there is an issue).


    • Keeper99 (@PaulKeeper99) Oct 20, 2016 / 12:05 pm

      70. Didn’t notice the BBC team was for ODIs or would have got Gayle. Annoyed to forget SF Barnes, must have been the pressure.


      • nonoxcol Oct 20, 2016 / 12:08 pm

        All the ones I missed were in the same XI !


      • Rooto Oct 20, 2016 / 6:49 pm

        Spent 5 minutes failing to remember Keith Miller’s name. Sadly ‘the Messerschmitt guy’ wasn’t recognised. And who the bloody hell was Don Tallon? (73)


      • nonoxcol Oct 20, 2016 / 7:06 pm

        Don Tallon was my “wouldn’t have got in 20 minutes” (see below). I have heard of him, but put Ring, Hole, Loxton, SG Barnes, Hassett and Brown in before giving up.


    • LordCanisLupus Oct 20, 2016 / 12:26 pm

      80. Last ones were all in Bradman’s self indulgent twaddle.


      • nonoxcol Oct 20, 2016 / 12:33 pm

        Quite – as if you didn’t know, that’s where I missed my three (one I thought about but for some reason decided was too early, one I really kicked myself about because I inexplicably went instead for a lesser known double-barrelled slow bowler with a podcast named after him, and the third I doubt I’d have got in 20 minutes).


        • LordCanisLupus Oct 20, 2016 / 12:36 pm

          Whereas I just did the top Ashes run scorers and left out an Aussie I saw make three Ashes hundreds in the flesh!


      • nonoxcol Oct 21, 2016 / 4:06 pm

        I’ve had three goes now: 187, 201, 215. Didn’t check my missing answers until after the third try. Will stop there because I’m not sweating over the likes of Murray Goodwin and Matthew Horne!


  12. thebogfather Oct 20, 2016 / 12:04 pm

    Fascinating day’s listening on TMS, only ruined by the ‘promotion’ of ERB to ‘Test status’… and at the end of the day she shares the review with Aggers, preceded by jolly japes about ‘Boycott Bingo’.
    I will introduce you all to ‘ERB’s Lingo Lotto’ later…

    I posted this on twitter earlier, thought I might share it here – not sure if the link will work tho’, so apologies if it doesn’t show


  13. SimonH Oct 20, 2016 / 4:15 pm

    So they did discuss stuff like the future structure of Test cricket at the last ICC meeting and it wasn’t all just Thakur ranting about how much he hates Manohar:

    Fitting the Ashes in and everyone wanting to play India look the obvious, usual hurdles.


    • Tuffers86 Oct 20, 2016 / 7:43 pm

      Sounds like a man who knows he got too comfortable on reflection. He knew damn well there are hard cricket news stories out there. Why he didn’t chase them, only he and his editor can answer.


      • editor Oct 20, 2016 / 7:52 pm

        Hello. I wrote this piece.

        Mike was very generous to speak to me, but I got the sense he is tired and disillusioned with the industry.

        He clearly hasn’t yet recovered from being given the boot from The Guardian.


      • Zephirine Oct 21, 2016 / 12:08 am

        It makes interesting reading when put together with the Jarrod Kimber interview further down the page. Changing times.

        Well, good luck to him.


      • Zephirine Oct 21, 2016 / 12:09 am

        Nice blog, by the way.


      • SimonH Oct 21, 2016 / 9:33 am

        Editor, this is difficult because I don’t want to be rude to a new commenter on the site – but I don’t feel your reply can pass without some challenge either.

        Mike Selvey may be have been generous with his time – but does it really contribute very much if he isn’t pressed on some more difficult issues? Were these off-limits or did you decide not to raise any of them? For example:
        1) Are modern journalists too embedded with governing bodies? (The subject of a recent ‘Cricketer’ article after all).
        2) Has he watched ‘Death of a Gentleman’ yet? Is it appropriate for a journalist going on a programme where the film is going to be discussed not to have watched it?
        3) Is it appropriate for journalists to attend birthday party’s of the chairmen of certain governing bodies and then Tweet what a marvelous time they’re having? Doesn’t it then look that, when said journalist fails ever to criticise that chairman’s actions, that his objectivity may have been somewhat compromised?
        4) How much coverage of the game’s governance is appropriate compared to whimsical nostalgia articles?
        5) Is it appropriate for a journalist to call one of the game’s outstanding performers a “fruit-fly”? Wasn’t this an example of sort of the “emotion” Selvey decries, only he doesn’t recognise it in himself?
        6) Was it appropriate to make that same performer being called an obscenity on TV one of his highlights of 2014?
        7) How was it justifiable that merely quoting some of Selvey’s past words back at him lead to comments being moderated on Guardian threads? Does Selvey understand why many long-standing Guardian cricket fans deserted the threads in droves feeling that the threads were deliberately being used to stifle viewpoints that dissented from Selvey’s?
        8) Is it appropriate for a journalist to intervene on a thread in such a rude, aggressive way that he himself is moderated for abusiveness? Is it appropriate for one journalist to intervene on the thread of other journalists on his paper?
        9) Is it appropriate for a journalist to walk through the revolving door from a paper straight into a job with the governing body he was supposed to be holding to account as Selvey’s “wing-man” Andy Wilson did?
        10) Is it appropriate to refer to journalists in the headline of an article about them by a nickname? This may seem a trivial point (and in some ways it is) – but doesn’t it reinforce the tendency of English cricket journalism to be far too cosy, far too complacent and far too closed-off?

        Liked by 2 people

    • nonoxcol Oct 20, 2016 / 7:44 pm

      I’ll dip my toe in:

      Google “Incoming ECB chief executive Tom Harrison to get blueprint for change” to see Selvey expertly shying away from those quote stories.


    • Zephirine Oct 21, 2016 / 12:28 pm

      I think you’re being a bit unfair there, Simon. A blogger has to take what they can get, basically.


      • editor Oct 21, 2016 / 2:49 pm

        Ok, I get that there’s a huge anti-Selvey feeling here.

        I tried to raise some of those issues with Mike, but he was careful about what he wanted to say on the record.

        I’m new to this game, I don’t get paid for my site, and I have no intention of pissing people off before I’ve even got my foot in the door.

        If you want Paxman, go elsewhere.


        • LordCanisLupus Oct 21, 2016 / 3:18 pm


          I was out last night, and spent my rage quotient on the appearance of Conrad Black on Question Time…. so apologies for not welcoming you on here as I try to do with most newbies.

          Quite a coup to get a word with Selvey. You are correct, there is a huge anti-Selvey feeling here. Many feel a sense of betrayal. I didn’t, because I was never a fan in the first place.

          I started blogging years ago, and it was only when I started pissing people off that I got hits. I think the thing is, you have to be genuine, not manufactured when you do it. People smell it a mile off if you are being fake.

          Good luck. We need all the cricket writing we can get, in my view. Just to be clear, we don’t get paid for this, and never intend doing so.


          Dmitri / LCL (I have two main user names, because I’m odd like that. Drives my critics to distraction)


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