There were a couple of things that were genuinely striking about the opening day of this short Test series – first that it was genuinely competitive, and secondly that Bangladesh bowled 92 overs. The former has happened before of course, and while Bangladesh’s Test history to date contains very few wins and lots of defeats, they are improving, and most importantly they are beginning – at home at least – to look genuinely competitive. As for the latter, well it’s simply astonishing to see a team bowl more overs than they have to these days.
Certainly England were in all sorts of trouble early on, 21 – 3 could have been 34-4 had Bangladesh reviewed an appeal against Moeen. He decided to extract a peculiar kind of revenge by overturning five lbw reviews during his innings, surely a record, and one likely to stand a long time. That it was the middle order who once again got England out of a hole is unsurprising, for quite some time the issues have been at the top. There are mitigating circumstances here, for the pitch played more like a day four surface than a first day track (Atherton on commentary even referred to a “wearing pitch” shortly after tea) and there was turn and some seam and swing with the new ball. Given that start, England will be extremely pleased with their recovery, and may well have had the better day in objective terms, not just in the sense of a strong fightback.
Root began the recovery, looking as thoroughly at ease as he always does, but it was Moeen and Bairstow who turned a precarious position into one that looks, at this early stage, to be one that if not strong, is at least competitive. After those two fell, it was Woakes who carried on the good work. He’s quite some batsman to be languishing at eight, and Adil Rashid is no slouch at nine. A slight sense of schadenfreude seeing Broad at eleven is understandable.
Yet if England can be happy with their day, the star of the show was undoubtedly Mehedi Hasan. He’s been felt to be one of Bangladesh’s brightest prospects for a while, and he stood out in the Under 19 side’s run to the World Cup semi-final. Even so, 5-64 on debut demonstrated considerable guile, spin and above all control. England had real trouble getting him away, and while he definitely turned the ball, what was noticeable was how many of his wickets came from the ball going straight on. As a bowler they won’t have seen before, it’s possible that they are failing to pick his variations due to lack of familiarity rather than anything else, but it was nevertheless an impressive display.
So where are we? England’s total looks a decent one given the conditions, if they can eke it out to 300 it’ll look very good. But the particular pleasure of low scoring Tests is that one player can change everything. Which means that Bangladesh vs England is intriguingly poised. Take a step back and think about that. Isn’t that wonderful?
Day two comments below