Test Cricket Resurgent?

Two days, two matches, two results that made the cricketing world sit up and take note.  The extraordinary victory by the West Indies undoubtedly put a smile on the faces of those who love and care for the game, and while the Australians as usual thoroughly enjoyed England’s demise, their schadenfreude lasted barely 12 hours before they fell to defeat against a Bangladesh team who have progressed rapidly and are now stiff opposition to anyone, at least at home.

It all demonstrates a game in rude health, where the minnows can turn over the giants, and those who have been struggling can still show what they can do when given the opportunity.

If only that were true.

Little has changed from a week ago concerning the health of the game generally, the prevalence of T20 leagues shows no sign of abating, and in the midst of the two Tests Mitchell McGlenaghan requested he be released from his New Zealand central contract in order to ply his trade as a freelancer in the T20 game.  In his case, he’s not an essential part of the Black Caps international line ups, and it has been some time since he played, indeed he rated his chances of playing international cricket again as “pretty slim”, but it’s still an instance of a centrally contracted player seeking to strike out on his own. The self-imposed absence of AB De Villiers from the South African Test team put a huge hole in their batting (and the Kolpak desertions just as much) during the most recent series in England, and of course the numbers of West Indians unavailable for their international team is well known.  So much of that is self-inflicted by a dysfunctional board, and in that regard at least there are more recent signs of an improvement in the governance, and the bringing on board of people like Jimmy Adams and Jeff Dujon who might just care more for the game than for the politicking that has afflicted it for so long.  It’s an ironic thing in the wake of the victory that Chris Gayle has indicated he wants to play Tests again.  Whether that would be welcome is less the point than that it would be beneficial for the West Indies to be able to select from their full pool of players.

What hasn’t changed is the dispersal of funding centrally, the question of a meaningful Test programme and ensuring that all teams get to play.  Bangladesh’s win over Australia follows one over England on their last tour, suggesting that at long last they are becoming competitive.  But Tests remain relatively rare for them, they’ve only had one three Test series in the last decade (against Zimbabwe), and there were efforts to downgrade the latest Australian tour to a one day only series without Tests.  Their next series is in South Africa, and that too is just the two Tests.  It’s not uncommon for them to go the best part of a year with no Tests at all.  Perhaps the improvement in their cricket will lead this to change, but it seems a little unlikely.

It’s possible that the two results will not only fail to change the current Test match situation, but even make it worse.  If the response to them is to believe that all is well in the garden, then that ironically doesn’t help at all, for the battle to save Test cricket isn’t even close to being won; it is being lost.  There are many villains in the piece – the easy money that T20 in particular generates taking precedence over everything else.  The ICC is not a governing body in the normal sporting sense, subject to the whims of its members and their vested interests in a way that isn’t healthy.  The general principle that such a body should be in place to look after the interests of the game simply doesn’t apply, and while there are few examples of those who act altruistically for the sake of sport, the ICC remains extraordinarily opaque in its decision making and doesn’t engender trust in any way.

What the two matches did do was offer a timely reminder that in cricket, there is simply nothing remotely as exciting as a match that last five days (yes, five) and builds to a climax.  The number of one sided matches is a real problem, but when the sport gets it right and the matches are close it reaches a level of tension that is extraordinarily rare.  The unfolding of a fine Test match is without compare, and given the context of a proper series, that is close and hard fought, it creates a narrative that sucks in even those who wouldn’t normally pay attention.  The final day of the 2005 Ashes series is always going to be the case in point to that, but of course in that case the play was on free to air television…

Let’s be positive about it.  The wins for the West Indies and Bangladesh reasserted what Test cricket is all about.  If for no other reason than as a reminder that it’s worth something, they were exceptionally welcome.  If it caused those who had been advocating four day Tests to quieten down, that is even more welcome.  There is nothing in that proposal that improves the game in any way; there would be fewer overs, matches would be wrecked by weather to a greater degree than is currently the case, and the prospect of getting teams to actually bowl the overs they are supposed to by increasing the daily workload is quite simply laughable.  The proposal is there for the benefit of boards and money men, not cricket.

One final point.  When it comes to the media, there’s a rule that generally applies.  If a headline ends in a question mark, the answer is no.

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Bangladesh vs England: Series Review

England’s defeat yesterday was the most disgraceful thing ever to befall the national team.  Losing to a side who had only previously beaten a much weakened West Indies and Zimbabwe is a new nadir in the national fortunes, for which there is no excuse.

Actually, Bangladesh are an improving side and will trouble most teams at home these days.

It was the spinners’ fault – especially that batting collapse.

Gary Ballance was at fault throughout.

It’s fair to say that there’s been no universal response to the result yesterday, and an awful lot of tiptoeing around the wider issues for the England team as they move on to face India in a five match series where they are very definitely the underdogs. Some of it goes beyond legitimate criticism about particular performances and moves on to existing prejudices in some instances, and what can only be seen as blatant attempts at deflection in others.

There are some things that can be safely said – that England do deserve credit for going in the first place, for a second tour after Australia’s aborted one cancelled for security reasons (even if justified) would have crippled Bangladeshi cricket possibly beyond repair.  Amid the joy of victory, it was notable that a significant number of home supporters made a point of thanking England for coming in the first place.  That it passed off without incident doesn’t in itself justify the decision to go, but it does mean we are able to talk about the cricket itself, and able to revel in the pleasure given to a country that doesn’t exactly get its fair share of good news stories.

It can also be safely said that Bangladesh are a much improved side.  Whatever the shortcomings of England, they will give many teams a hard time in their own conditions – particularly the non-Asian sides.  Cook deserves credit for rejecting an invitation to wallow in the excuse that the surfaces were difficult by brusquely saying “Why wouldn’t you?” in response to a question about the wickets suiting the spinners.  As it turned out, rather than being low and boring in an attempt to scrape a draw, the groundsmen produced result pitches.  And well done them, we had two exceptionally entertaining matches.  Rather obviously, Bangladesh’s bowling strength is in their spin attack, and while Mehedi Hasan’s glorious start in Test cricket is no more a guide to his longevity than Bob Massie’s early matches, it showed that they have the attack to put sides under serious pressure when conditions allow.  That means little when they go away from home, for not a single fast bowler took a wicket for them in this short series, and the prospect of the hard tracks of Australia or South Africa, or the green seamers of England or New Zealand would likely mean they were overwhelmed, but all sides have to begin somewhere, and winning at home is that somewhere.

It’s not just the bowling either; Tamim Iqbal may well love batting against England in particular, but he is a very good player full stop, as is Imrul Kayes, while Shakib Al Hasan is a potent all rounder.  The lower order was too often blown away, but there is plenty to work with here.  They are improving, and all they need is the opportunity to improve further.  If there were to be one good thing to come out of this England tour, then it would be that teams play them more often – for this was their first Test series in over a year.  Too long and simply not fair.

Perhaps in advance of the series there was a degree of underestimation about where they were as a side, although given the lack of cricket, and Test cricket in particular, it’s not too surprising that most observers were short of detailed knowledge.  That they had better players than in the past was known, but it didn’t mean that there was any kind of expectation they would draw the series.  It doesn’t alter the truth that having watched them play this time, there is a recognition that they aren’t a bad side at all now, and that they thoroughly, completely deserved what they got, indeed they perhaps should have won 2-0.  Having lost the first game it would have surprised no one if they’d been badly beaten in the second, a narrow defeat is always hard to take.  That they went after England with a vengeance instead was wonderful to watch.

That doesn’t necessarily let England off the hook for the result, and while it is true that England were beaten by the better side in Dhaka, it’s reasonable to ask whether Bangladesh should have been the better team, even with all their improvements.  It therefore comes down to a question of what England did wrong, how much was forced by Bangladesh, how much was their own shortcomings as players, and how much was underperformance.

What can certainly be said is that by agreeing to play 7 Tests in 8 weeks, and skipping a warm up fixture in India to boot, they brought some of their problems on themselves.  This is the ECB’s responsibility rather than the captain or the coach, for they do their masters’ bidding in terms of the itineraries.  But with no match between this second Test and the opener in India, they were certainly forced to treat this one at least to some extent as a warm up match for India.  That meant resting Broad and bringing in Finn for one of his periodical appearances on surfaces for which he couldn’t be more unsuited.  Whether that made all the difference is neither here nor there; Broad didn’t have an exceptional first Test, but he is an exceptional bowler, and dropping him did weaken the side, no matter how necessary that decision might have been, and how wise it might turn out to have been over the next month and a bit.

The other change was dropping Gareth Batty for Zafar Ansari, and it is here we get to the thorny question of the England spin bowling.  England played Moeen Ali, Batty, Ansari and Adil Rashid across the two matches.  Ansari was on debut, and allowances have to be made for that, while the others have been the recipients of exceptionally strong criticism for their performances.  This is grotesquely unfair for a number of reasons.  Their returns were not bad at all overall, Moeen averaged 22 with the ball, while Batty and Rashid were a touch under 30.  They’re not fantastic figures of course, and certainly nothing like the wicket-taking levels of Hasan or Shakib, but it has to be asked what is expected here.  Bangladesh should be expected to have better spinners than England, in the same way that England can expect to have much better fast bowlers than Bangladesh (which they do).  Likewise, when they get to India, they’ll be facing better spin bowlers than they possess themselves – this is normal and to be expected.  Complaining about it is akin to wishing for golden elephants.  The last time England toured India they had the best spinner England have had in 40 years bowling from one end, and another who in another era would have been a fixture in the team for being the best we had by a distance.  Indeed, a fit and healthy Panesar right now would be a major upgrade on all of the alternatives.  England does not often produce quality spin bowling, and while that is a criticism of the coaching and structure that can and should be made, whining about the positioning of the deckchairs on the Titanic is what it always has been – pointless.

Therefore the only option is to work with what is there.  Rashid is a leg spinner; they have always been prone to bowling a bad ball an over, it tends to be in the nature of them with the rare exception of the very best like Shane Warne.  Even one as good as Stuart MacGill was relatively expensive.  That isn’t to defend his performances, but it is to make the point that if a legspinner is going to be selected in the first place, then some understanding of how to manage that legspinner is needed, plus a decent and realistic level of expectation about what they can and can’t do.  You simply don’t pick a leg spinner if the aim is to dry up the runs, it’s not going to happen.  Cook has shown little sign of understanding how to captain Rashid, who should be considered a wicket taking weapon, who will go for some runs (rather like Finn come to that).  Betraying a complete lack of confidence by having as at one stage six players on the boundary hardly helps the bowler or the team and removes the whole point of having a leggie in the side in the first place.

This is a common attitude problem in the English game, one that goes all the way down to Sunday village cricket, where a seam bowler who gets smashed around the park comes back for another spell later – a spinner suffering the same is lucky to get another bowl three weeks afterwards.  It takes an astute and clever captain, sympathetic to his bowlers to manage it and to make the best use of their assets.  Cook, unfortunately, is not the man to do that.

Moeen overall bowled passably well – he is what he is, a batsman and part time off spinner converted into being the senior slow bowler.  He does let the odd bad ball go down, but the truth of the matter is that people need to deal with that, he’s quite probably the best England have, and is someone who is doing relatively well given where he’s come from bowling wise.  Batty’s recall was frowned upon or approved of depending on perspective, and while he didn’t bowl as well as he might have hoped, even at his best he simply isn’t going to run through an Asian side in Asian conditions.  These players are very used to facing spin – something else that hasn’t been taken into account when berating the bowlers for not being better than they are, while imagining that left at home is a miracle worker who would have repeated Laker’s feat.

If that reads like an extended defence of the spinners, it’s only partially meant that way. They could certainly have bowled better, they unquestionably could have been captained better, but they are players limited by their English upbringing and learning.  The truth is that those who don’t play find their reputations enhanced by virtue of missing a defeat; whoever England select would not change things dramatically, and complaining that they aren’t Graeme Swann is as futile as the years Australia spent discarding spinner after spinner for the crime of not being Shane Warne.

More to the point, if the spinners were average but not appalling – in other words pretty much what could be expected of them, then the attempt to blame them for the match loss and the drawn series is downright peculiar.  It certainly wasn’t the cause of collapsing from 100-0 to 164 all out in little more than 20 overs.  The pundits have a real habit of demanding the heads of the bowlers for batting problems, and it’s much more realistic to point to the batting failures as being key to England not winning this series.  Not one of the top 5 averaged even 30 and they managed just four fifties between them in the series from a combined 20 attempts, with a top score of 68 from Moeen Ali as he and Bairstow attempted to rescue the team from the wreckage of the first morning of the first Test.  Only Woakes, Bairstow and Stokes managed to even score 100 runs over the four innings,while just behind those three in the averages was Adil Rashid, who with Woakes performed another recovery act from the shambles of the upper order.

Put simply, blaming the bowling is simply an attempt to project from the reality of where England went badly wrong – the top order batting.  Cook was poor, Duckett was brand new, Ballance was lucky to be in the team and was extremely poor, Root was poor.  Not many sides can handle the core of their batting malfunctioning repeatedly and go on to win.  And here is the problem for India, for it is hardly a shock to anyone to know that they have superior spinners, but for England to have a chance they need in particular for Cook and Root to step up and score runs – and lots and lots of them.  They are more than capable of course, Root is a fine player and Cook is an exceptionally good player of spin, and for an opener a phenomenal one.  But they could and should be feeling particularly uncomfortable with the way the spinners are getting the blame for not winning a series that was fundamentally about the inability of the England batting to reach 300 in any innings – and only once getting close because the middle and lower order got them there.

Furthermore, of the England players Ben Stokes is the one who can really hold his head up, his bowling was outstanding and his batting was good enough to score more runs than anyone else.  Yet the comment about him largely concerns his behaviour in getting into a spat with opponents.  Stokes is a fiery character alright, but it is peculiar to say the least that this gets attention and criticism ahead of the failures of those above him.  This blog has expressed concern on a number of occasions that a few media types are waiting for him to fail so they can properly put the boot in – nothing has happened which changes that worry, for we know all too well that it has happened before.

Bangladesh can bask in the glow of a successful short series, while England go to India with a lot of questions to answer.  It is to be hoped that some spend time on the questions that matter rather than wishing things were different than they are.  That is nothing but carping.  Whinging.  And if it’s unfair on some of the England players, it’s more than just unfair when it comes to the Bangladesh ones – it’s disrespectful.  This was an enjoyable and hard fought series, and one where a deciding Test would be just perfect.  Bangladesh would be quite strongly fancied to win it.

Bangladesh vs England: 2nd Test Preview

What might have been.  England could easily have been preparing for this Test on the back of defeat, with a side displaying manifest weaknesses, and with a tour of India around the corner having failed to arrange any practice matches before the first Test.  Resting players, rotating the seamers and giving debuts to the next bright young things would have been the last thing on the minds of captain and coach, as they sought desperately to avoid an embarrassing series defeat against one of the weakest (but improving) sides in world cricket.

But they won.  And that’s ultimately the point, for hard luck stories and what might have beens are always the refuge of the desperate.  Bangladesh will – or at least should – feel they missed a real opportunity to beat England.  Whether they can raise themselves to put in a similar display will perhaps be the biggest question of this match, and it would not be a surprise if England were to win comfortably given the narrow escape at Chittagong, even though there’s no reason to suppose so based on the performances.

It seems likely that the hosts will look to prepare a result pitch, not least because the weather forecast for Dhaka is iffy with a cyclone heading towards the city. It would be an immense shame if weather denied Bangladesh at least the opportunity of putting England under the same kind of pressure as they did first time round.

The ECB will deny it of course (don’t they always?) but this second Test was clearly intended to be a warm up fixture for the India series.  The lack of any intervening practice matches between tours made that clear, and the rumours verging on fact from the press that changes will be made to the side make it abundantly clear where the priorities lie.  Given the schedule, it’s understandable to do that, but Bangladesh can be forgiven if they feel a little slighted.

Zafar Ansari seems likely to be given a debut, probably at the expense of Gareth Batty, while the word is that Stuart Broad will make way for Steven Finn.  The batting appears likely to remain unchanged, despite the status of Gary Ballance as the whipping boy of the media these days.  England won despite the lack of contributions from Cook and Root, and however unfair it might be that Ballance copped the bulk of the stick, those two are the ones who will need to perform in India for England to have a chance.  Jos Buttler it appears will have to wait for his chance.

Bangladesh are likely to be unchanged, with the requirement that they perform better all round than in the first match.  Their batting line up is a decent one these days and plenty of them got starts in both innings.  Converting that into substantial scores remains their biggest challenge, for they have the bowling to trouble anyone at home.

Chittagong was a terrific Test match, if we can have something similar this time, then it’ll be required viewing.

Day One Comments Below

Bangladesh vs England: 1st Test, day two

Whisper it quietly, but there’s a game on here.  If England were reasonably pleased with their first day efforts, then Bangladesh will be much the happier with day two.  England only added 35 to their overnight score, which having lost Woakes first ball of the day was probably around about what they might have hoped for.  293 might not an imposing total, but given the turn and bounce available they’ll have been fairly content with their efforts.

Tamim Iqbal clearly likes batting against England though, and having already scored two centuries against them seemed likely to make it a third as he batted through most of the day, accumulating in a more restrained style than was seen in 2010.  It was hard work, as it has been for all the batsmen so far, but it provided the platform and the stability to give his team the chance not just to match England, but to go past them.  Mahmadullah and Mshfiqur Rahim both gave good support, while much now rests on the shoulders of Shakib Al Hasan.  However, there is still some batting to come, Mehedi Hasan at nine is considered an all rounder.

For England, they toiled hard, but they never looked to be on top, except early on when Moeen dismissed two in an over, one of which from a terrific delivery that bit on the surface.  Moeen did what Moeen does – bowl some unplayable stuff amongst pretty ordinary fare.  Likewise the returning Gareth Batty, often too short, often too wide, but it was he who picked up Tamim with a nice change of pace that had him playing back when forward might have been the better option.

Indeed, it was the seamers who looked the greater threat, Broad in particular went through his range of variations, sometimes in a single over.  While he went wicketless, he was also extremely tight, and in a low scoring game that in itself is valuable.

Much will depend on how the wicket plays over the next couple of days.  Should it deteriorate from here Bangladesh will need a useful lead given they’re batting last.  But it didn’t appear any different to day one today (perhaps it shouldn’t either); this is a war of attrition.  At the moment Bangladesh have the upper hand.  But only just, and that can change in an instant.

Day Three Comments below

England in Bangladesh: Preview

Friday sees the England team back in action after a break that scarcely warrants the term.  To put it into context, they begin the ODI series in Bangladesh on October 7th.  In 2017, they will finish their home international season on 29th September.  It’s been pointed out before that England’s schedule is beyond ridiculous, and irrespective of all the other matters around whether England were to tour at all, it would be unsurprising if some within the England camp were hoping for it to be cancelled for no other reason than to provide a more meaningful break.

Some players are missing anyway of course, Alex Hales and Eoin Morgan deciding not to tour, while James Anderson is injured, and in so being thoroughly justifying the medical team once again who advised so firmly against his selection during the English summer.  If this series feels like a warm up for the India tour, it’s not helped by the lack of any scheduled preparatory matches before the first Test in Rajkot; the implication that Bangladesh will provide what is needed is hard to avoid.  Nevertheless, despite the debates over the security issues, Bangladesh as a cricket nation desperately needed it to go ahead.  If England had not agreed to go, the likelihood of other countries visiting would take a big hit.  There may be lots of criticism about how deserving Bangladesh have been over their Test status in the last decade, but losing home matches would be a body blow to the prospects of the game there.  Cricket is not in the healthiest state it could be, and while Pakistan reaching the number one ranking (since overtaken by India) while playing in exile might be a notable achievement, it doesn’t mean it’s a template for others to follow.

This series comprises three one day internationals and two Tests, but few in England will be excited about it.  That isn’t the point though, and while it is easy to play a game of whataboutery, whether it be concerning Ireland’s treatment or the actions of the ICC, for the game to have any chance, the weaker and poorer members of the international firmament need to play against the rest, and play at home.  On my recent travels I had the opportunity to talk to a number of people from Bangladesh, hoteliers, ground handlers and so forth, and while this cricket tour is not something from which they expect to see any business, the very fact that it is happening at all was clearly uppermost in their thoughts.  In difficult times even the most peripheral action can have an impact on the future and on the degree of confidence in the future.  They need this, and they need it badly.

England will expect to win, and although Bangladesh’s progress is uneven, they are even more hampered by having not played international cricket since March’s World T20.  In a time when the ECB are heavily criticised for grinding their players into the dust in an attempt to extract the maximum financial return, it is easy to forget that other countries might regard that as a nice problem to have.

This tour will be low key on the field, and all hopes are that it will be equally low key off it.  Yet for England fans the selections of Zafar Ansari and Ben Duckett will be of interest, as will the performance of some of the bowlers given the challenges ahead.  Chris Woakes has had the kind of summer he would have dreamed about, but rising to the challenge of sub-continental pitches will be something new to deal with.  How he does that, particularly in the absence of Anderson, will provide an indication as to how competitive England will be in India.  The same can be said of the spin attack – the recall of Gareth Batty doesn’t inspire great confidence in the potential amongst the younger players, but dealing with the here and now rather than chasing a future that never arrives is perhaps something England haven’t done enough of in recent times.

However it turns out on the field, this tour says more than just about cricket, and perhaps that is the most important thing.  The debate about the rights and wrongs of players going, not going, how the ECB handled that, how the cricketing press responded to that has been done and not too many came out of it with a great deal of credit.  The matches themselves can at least provide a respite from that.

 

England vs Pakistan: 2nd ODI

No form of cricket can guarantee close matches or excitement, and the first game somewhat petered out in a drizzly mess.  But even though England’s win was ultimately confirmed by Messieurs Duckworth Lewis and Stern, there was little doubt which way the match was going anyway.  It was a curiously old fashioned game, at least as far as Palistan were concerned, as their innings brought back memories of England under Flower and Moores as much as anything.  260 may even be a “winning score” as far as the statisticians are concerned (probably not) but England were in complete cruise control throughout.

The second match therefore will be interesting to see how the visitors look to approach it, for England look a real force in the one day format, one who seem quite capable of reaching another hundred on top of that.  That’s not to say they can’t fall in a heap, for the shorter the game, the higher the level of risk, and the greater the opportunity for collapse.  One of the more pleasing things about this England side is that when that does happen, they regard it as an occupational hazard, shrug it off and continue in the same vein.

Yet if the batting is doing well, it was the bowling, or more specifically, one element of the bowling, that caught the eye.  Mark Wood has shown he has ability and pace before, but his entire England career to date has been while labouring with the presence of an ankle problem.  Having been away for quite some time getting it sorted, he is now back – and my, how he is back.  His pace is right up there with anyone, and it was startling to read that he feels he’s not fully there yet and could get quicker.  It may yet be the best news of the summer providing he suffers no reaction.

In the days between these matches England confirmed that they will tour Bangladesh this autumn.  The ECB rarely earn praise from anyone – well, apart from one or two for whom they can do no wrong no matter what – but while it is impossible to judge the rights and wrongs of this particular decision, they do deserve praise for at least trying wherever possible to ensure these tours go ahead.  It’s not the first time, back in 2008 after the Mumbai terror attacks, England returned to the country, ensuring that normality was restored in sporting terms.

Again, we must trust the Foreign Office and the ECB’s own advisors that this particular decision is the correct one, but assuming it is so, it would still have been easy to use the security situation to cancel it.  Indeed, there must be a suspicion that other countries may well have done so, and thus with the proviso that we do not know the reality of the decision, the ECB do deserve credit for not using it as an excuse to avoid going.  Notwithstanding Pakistan’s wonderful rise to the top of the Test rankings, it would have been crippling to Bangladesh had it got the go ahead.

The ECB have told England’s players that they can drop out of the tour with no effect on their careers, but whilst this is a good thing to say, the truth of the matter is that for all but those absolutely certain of their place, it means nothing.  Players who do well are always going to be in pole position, the man in possession has the advantage.  It means that for some, there will be some soul searching about whether to make themselves available or not.  It is hard to think how else the ECB could have done things, they may be many things, but they are not fools, and they will be as aware of this as anyone.

Finally in other news Somerset have announced the prices for the T20 international between England and South Africa next year.  It is the first time they will host an international in 30 years, and they seem determined to make the most of it, by announcing ticket prices of between £60 and £80.  It’s not the biggest ground, it is a big event for them.  But it is still an outrageous price.  There seems little doubt they will sell out, and therefore in commercial terms it’s justifiable.  Yet once more it is those who support the game being used as a cash cow and nothing else.  Commercially sensible yes.  Grasping and greedy, also yes.  I trust they’ll use the financial bonanza wisely.

2nd ODI comments below

2015 Test Century Watch #18 – Imrul Kayes

Imrul Kayes1

Imrul Kayes – 150 v Pakistan at Khulna

So while Tamim was setting the national record at one end, Imrul was making the seventh highest score by a Bangladesh player at the other end, setting record opening partnerships with him, and becoming fifth player to pass 150 in tests for Bangladesh. It was a carve up in Khulna.

So with all the ground records and national stuff out of the way in the Tamim piece below, what else do I have for Imrul’s knock in statistical terms? This was Imrul’s third test century and his first not at Chittagong. He has a decent conversion rate – 5 scores over 50, just two falling short once he passes 50 of the century mark (one being his first innings 51 – the other a 75 at Lord’s). That test average is still in the mid-20s, but don’t underestimate a knock like that in saving the game. He doesn’t stop at 100, with scores of 115 and 130, so while a DBTA of 31.67 isn’t top drawer, it isn’t nonsense either.

Imrul’s century was the 11th made at the Sheikh Abu Naser Stadium, and he nestles into 5th = with Shiv Chanderpaul (who made a not out 150) for the stadium honours board list. Five hundreds have been made by home players – Tamim has two, Shakib al Hasan one and Abul Hasan one. Three hundreds were made in one test by West Indies players in 2011.

On to 150. Have you ever seen a 150 Dmitri? The answer is no. There have been 30 scores of 150 in tests, and if I had to associate the number with one innings I recall, it is Mike Gatting’s at The Oval to take us to a series losing draw v Pakistan in 1987, when the visitors had racked up 700 on us. The first 150 was made in 1911, and by one of the few test players with a surname beginning with the letter Z outside the subcontinent. Billy Zulch, at the SCG, while following on against the hosts, made 150 for South Africa in a losing cause.

“When South Africa followed-on, Zulch made a great effort. He batted extremely well in the latter half of his innings, but he might have been out three times before he had scored seventy.”

A “Cook-esque” ton then 🙂

The previous 150 made in tests was Shiv Chanderpaul’s effort at Khulna three years ago. Sydney and Georgetown have had three scores of 150 apiece, so Khulna, in its limited life as a test venue is punching above its statistical weight. The last Englishman to make 150 exactly was Gatting, with just two others making that score – Len Hutton and Derek Randall. The last one in England was by Ricky Ponting at Cardiff to kick off the 2009 Ashes. Ricky Ponting, along with Gary Kirsten, are the only two players to make 150 twice in tests.

Imrul Kayes 100 came up in 150 balls and contained 11 x 4 and 3 x 6.

2015 Test Century Watch #17 – Tamim Iqbal

Tamim

Tamim Iqbal – 206 v Pakistan at Khulna

Tamim Iqbal, once, as I always like to remind him, compared to Virender Sehwag by Jonathan Agnew, is really hitting form. Today he reached the pinnacle of Bangladesh test batting by setting its record score. His 206 broke the record set by Mushfiqur Rahman (200) two years ago in Galle against Sri Lanka. It took his test batting average over 40. It was his seventh test hundred, he’s a good over or two’s thrashing from 3000 test runs, and he’s just 26. It’s a bit of a transformation for him, and Bangladeshi test cricket. On the batting front there are green shoots of recovery.

This was the 16th double hundred made in tests in Bangladesh (we set out the country record and ground record holders in the Mohammad Hafeez piece). 206 places Tamim in 9th place in the list. When he reached 182 he passed Monimul Haque for the highest score by a Bangladesh test batsman in their host country. This was the 14th double ton in Bangladesh involving the host nation – two Pakistanis made their doubles against Sri Lanka in the Asian Test Championship. This was Tamim’s second ton at Khulna, his fourth in Bangladesh (he has two in England) and only the third of his centuries to pass 110.

206 has been made 14 times in test cricket? Have you seen one Dmitri? Well funny you should mention that but I have. It was in Adelaide, funnily enough, and it was Paul Collingwood who made it. I wonder how that test panned out?

The first 206 was made in 1938 by Bill Brown, who carried his bat for that score at Lord’s in 1938 after Walter Hammond had made a big double for England in the first innings. Lord’s saw the second 206, when Martin Donnelly of New Zealand made that score in 1949. Lord’s shares the distinction of having two scores of 206 with the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, where both Everton Weekes and Ricky Ponting have made that score. Also, Adelaide has two – Collingwood and Arthur Morris. The last 206 was Chetshwar Pujara’s unbeaten innings against England in Ahmedabad. You know, the game Arron refers to a lot when it came to our selection of bowlers (and rightly so). Another notable 206 innings came from Ravi Shastri in Sydney (Shane Warne’s debut).

Tamim Iqbal’s 100 came up in 124 balls and included 11 x 4 and 3 x 6. His 200 came off 264 balls, with 17 x 4 and 7 x 6, with the final tally for his innings being 278 balls. A National Record to be proud of Tamim. Bangladesh may well be on the rise.