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Old June 1, 2010, 11:48 AM
1137moiz 1137moiz is offline
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Two perspectives of perspective
by Ibrahim Moiz on June 1, 2010 at 11:29 am
So for the first time Bangladesh have made a real fist of an England Test. It was a very encouraging performance from the Tigers, who battled hard into the fourth day despite eventually losing by a convincing eight-wicket margin. The tourists dominated the second and fourth days, making superb comebacks after a Jonny Trott special and a follow-on situation, but ultimately their inexperience and unimpressive bowling cost them.

But Bangladesh can take plenty from the match. Like Sri Lanka a couple of decades ago, they’ve taken their time but are finally beginning to find the technique and fortitude to battle it out in various conditions.

Tamim Iqbal is a cricketer intent on carving out a niche in history, and the swift century he laced on the fourth day, battling injury and to go with a similarly aggressive first-innings fifty, ranks with the best innings from his country. A swashbuckler who sets himself high goals, Tamim is the most thrilling of young cricketers and can on his day incinerate most attacks. And there was a fairly dandy bit of backstory to go with his 94-ball century, after which he sprinted towards the dressing room and indicated his name be put up on the famous honours board. It transpired he had heard the famously blunt Geoffrey Boycott belittling Bangladesh’s attack the previous night, and decided to make an impression with a stupendously emphatic performance.

Nor, refreshingly, was it a one-man effort that had England fairly worried by stumps on the fourth day. Imrul Kayes finally showed some grit and temperament, playing the straight man to Tamim’s swashbuckler in both innings to score 43 and 75. While his partner lashed and flayed, Kayes steered and parried, making for some compelling viewing in an opening partnership that few Bangladeshis, let alone others, would have expected. Meanwhile, Junaid Siddique and Jahurul Islam were both impressively mature in their efforts, Siddique in particular showing a technique and temperament that would have been alien to the happy-go-lucky campers who represented Bangladesh’s disastrous initial forays into the Test arena.

The middle and lower order comprising Shakib-al-Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah Riyad had an uncharacteristically underwhelming match. Those three have represented much of Bangladesh’s solidity in recent times, and their off-days meant that Bangladesh couldn’t capitalize on a flying start. That, along with a fairly rank bowling effort, cost them the match. As far as that department goes, Bangladesh’s spin-heavy attack lacks an edge in these seamer-friendly conditions. Rubel Hossain has threatened and probed without much success, but the good news is that Shahadat Hossain, while as volatile as the Sharapova-esque grunts he lets out during his efforts, is finally showing the long-awaited bite to lead the attack. He grabbed a deserved 5 for 98 in England’s first innings, and though the numbers may not reflect it he has hustled and threatened far more often this season, as have his side.

On the other side of the camp, Steven Finn seems to be all the rage. While the England camp has since the arrival of coach Andy Flower displayed a level-headed sense to do the obdurate Zimbabwean proud, their press remains as manic-depressive as ever. No series, apparently, goes by without an eye on Australia, and consequently it has been all but confirmed that Finn will board the flight down under in six months’ time.

The hulking seamer has done everything he can to assure that so far, but that’s hardly the point. Why oh why must every series be played with an eye on the cricket and another eye on Australia? Yes it’s the oldest, most hyped and most intense rivalry in all of cricket, but for once let’s not measure all performances in terms of the Ashes. There’s almost six months to go till the Brisbane Test kicks off. Six months, as Pakistan and West Indies will tell you, is a long time in cricket. Why not, as Australia do, focus on every series in its own right without spewing on and speculating about how so-and-so will do against the Aussies? It would make for a positive change that England’s cricket fraternity badly needs.

That, unfortunately, is not the case at present, and this Ashes mania has served to sour up this series as well. In the Times ex-cricketer-cum-writer Steve James (who considers his writing “deliberately inflammatory”, make of that what you will) says, with a point, that Tim Bresnan does not look Test-class as a bowler. Fair enough, though Bresnan makes for a handy seam-bowling allrounder in the shorter formats. He also maintains, quite sensibly, that England should keep their heads before hyping up young Finn as the next McGrath. True. He then says that Jonathan Trott’s wonderful double-century is of little consequence, as it’s only Bangladesh. That, of course, brings the subject to “only Bangladesh”, and while maintaining that they may have improved, he complains that the delight they displays even at a “hiding” only shows the pathetic level of their cricket, and that they shouldn’t be playing Test cricket and clogging up the calendar.

But that’s symptomatic of the English press’ attitude. Clogging up the calendar? Isn’t it a cricketer’s job to play other cricketers? An international match is just that–of course there are more competitive teams. Nobody called for England’s ouster a decade ago, because despite being ranked at the bottom when Nasser Hussain took the lead England were starting to show long-sought improvement and grit against all comers. It’s true that Bangladesh are nowhere near their peers as a Test nation, but the marked improvement they have shown in the last year-and-a-bit shows the need to continue playing top-level cricket. There’s no other way to improve. A call to oust Bangladesh from cricket’s top tier would have been sensible, say, three years ago, when despite the odd flicker they were by and large regularly thrashed. But a Test team is not built in a day, and the steep rise of Bangladesh’s standards in the last season shows why a two-tier system–a glass ceiling, really–would only deter competitive cricket.

The England management, of course, shows little pettiness in this regard. Since Flower and Andrew Strauss have taken the reins, it’s been a refreshingly focused, competitive group. Their World Twenty20 victory–while, as Michael Vaughan would say, “not as important as the Ashes, don’t get me wrong”–showed a professional and fresh attitude that has been missing from the country’s cricket since the 2005 Ashes, which only stirred up Ashes fever and made every non-Ashes series irrelevant. Strauss has led from the front, and though Bangladesh’s attack mayn’t be the hallmark of threat he did well this Test. As did James Anderson, whose fine 4 for 78 in overcast conditions went almost unnoticed amid the hype of the more consistent Finn.

The standout performers, of course, were Jonathan Trott and Steven Finn. As a fellow patient, I suspect Trott may have some sort of mild psychotic disorder like OCD, because the almost obsessive intensity, nervousness and fidgeting he displays is laughable. (After hitting the winning runs here, he scratched out his mark again and had to be reminded that the match was won.) What isn’t laughable is his technique and focus, which fetched him an immaculate 226 that should do wonders to his confidence, even though, again, it was “only Bangladesh”. He pulled and drove with precision and force, and the only worry he should have is his own fidgeting and self-consciousness, which really only serves to delay proceedings and can be a very handy sledging point. A quiet vote of confidence from the management could be useful here–it’s not often you score 262 in a match and still have your spot questioned by the masses.

But it was Finn who swept most of the honours. Comparisons with Glenn McGrath are a stretch to say the least, though he possesses a similarly efficient action and delivery stride, and even comparisons with his mentor and role model Angus Fraser are a touch hasty. But he is a real promise for the side, his towering 6-foot-7 height fetching extra bounce off a length while he has been very accurate and threatening in the many conditions that clouded London these past five days. It’s still a bit early to envision him troubling the Aussies, though he has done everything he can to ensure a plane seat to Brisbane this November. Then again, with England playing Pakistan and Bangladesh this summer, that’s really not what matters.

(From our blog,
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