So advantage Bangladesh. The fact that they were able to quickly score against the new ball has in all likelihood put them in the driving seat to win this Test. Despite Ansari getting rid of Mahmudullah at stumps, England will need a number of quick wickets in the morning to give them any hope of winning the game, as I feel that anything above 220 on this pitch is likely to be too much. Whereas England tried to be positive against the new ball and got out, Tamim in particular, showed why it is such a pity that we don’t get to see him bat more in Test matches. There is a skill in taking on the opposition opening bowlers on a pitch that as an understatement, is conducive to spin and whilst he may have only made 40 odd in this innings, what he did do was wrestle any momentum away from England.
To be fair to the England team, that we even got past the Bangladesh 1st innings is an achievement in itself. With the team hovering on the wrong end of another bating collapse at 144-8, Woakes and Rashid showed the top order how it’s done by producing a partnership with a lot of guts and no little skill to get England to what we hoped was a priceless first innings lead. The fact that Rashid, despite batting quite beautifully, was still the target of a number of MSM snipes clearly shows there is still very much an agenda:
Now it’s fair to say that Rashid hasn’t come on as we hoped he would have, he can bowl brilliant wicket taking deliveries but amongst those, he is likely to bowl some dross and half trackers along the way; however we’re not exactly enamored in the spin bowling department at the moment, so the criticism that has been aimed at him during his Test career so far is far from helpful. One can only look back at this piece of gold, from our favourite ex-Chief Cricket Correspondent to work out that Adil Rashid is not likely to be getting a seat at the Alastair Cook table anytime soon:
“Rashid, though, is sailing close to the wind with his club and career: there are sceptics about, some with a greater depth of knowledge than most, and his card has been marked.”
Of course having a captain that accepts that he will go for runs but take wickets if you give him the support and field that he needs would be nice. Unfortunately the ‘bowl dry’ mentality of past eras still is at the forefront of English cricket’s mindset. The fact that he came on so late for a bowl in the 2nd innings today shows quite clearly that Cook has either no faith in him or simply has no idea how to utilize him.
As for the batting, it was the same old story. The top order has failed more times than a Southeastern train at rush hour and yet again it was the lower order that tried to dig them out of a hole. Gary Ballance is the man getting the most heat from our beloved national press at the moment, and on this occasion I can’t really disagree with the MSM here, as his technique against all forms of bowling looks all over the place. I was surprised they picked him for the subcontinent tour as he looked all at sea against an admittedly world class spinner in Yasir Shah in England over the summer. However the fact the Ballance keeps failing with the bat nicely takes the heat away from another batsman who has struggled for form over an even longer period. 4 tons in the last 42 Tests is a pretty damning statistic for any batsman who is proclaimed to be world class, and you could guarantee that if this was for example Ian Bell, the MSM would be queuing up to demand that he is dropped; however this is not Ian Bell, this is captain fantastic and I have yet to see even a murmur questioning Alastair Cook’s form. The thing with Cook is that unless he is contributing with the bat, then he isn’t contributing at all. His captaincy is a mixture of conservatism combined with an inherent streak of stubbornness and inflexibility. Unless England are able to get a first innings lead and then squeeze the opposition, he seems completely lost. There is no plan B apart from hoping that Stokes, Anderson or Broad suddenly deliver a world-class spell out of nowhere. I’ve occasionally commented that the Investec Zebra would be more proactive in the field and certainly in conditions that don’t favour our seam attack, this seems like a fairer and fairer reflection of Cook’s tenure. A funky Captain he is not.
Of course, many will counter this argument by pointing out the number of runs that Cook has scored over the course of his England career and he does indeed have an impressive record; however the Cook of pre-2010 and the Cook of post 2010 are two completely different animals. He has been worked out by opposition bowlers, they know where to bowl at him and how to keep the pressure on him, there simply is no fear from the opposition side when he comes out to bat. The MSM will continue to laud him as the great new hope, the leader of our group of up and coming band of warriors and there is absolutely no chance that he will dropped until after the next Ashes series (and even then it is likely to be a polite ask as to whether he would care to step aside); however Cook to most unbiased observers, seems to be slightly lucky that we simply have no other options at the top of the order. It all reminds me of Mark Taylor when he was coming to the end of his career (except Taylor was a better captain), a very good player once, but one that was struggling to justify a place in the team on his batting alone.
The clocks go back tonight, so who knows what time Day 3 is likely to start in the UK tomorrow but I can guarantee that I’m likely to be in bed for most of the action. For those that are far more committed than me, please post any comments on Day 3 below before another cretin appears on Twitter or WordPress try to shut us down again: