When asked to write a report on the just concluded Bangladesh-England Series one can just spend several days just trying to digest what happened. The past few weeks have been rather, hmmm let?s say, a time of mixed feelings. A time when we all Bangladeshi cricket fans were really excited with the sight of a possible first ever Test win and then were left as helpless spectators as the Bangladesh Batsmen fell like a pack of cards. After a very promising Pakistan Tour the Tigers were just waiting to have a go at the English team. Dav Whatmore had turned the Bangladeshi team around in a matter of few months and the spirits were high, the players seemed confident and the whole nation crossed their fingers for a pleasant surprise.
The English team arrived to a rain soaked Dhaka. Prospects of holding the practice matches were overshadowed by the rain clouds. However despite the rain the first match against the BCB President?s XI was held, declared as an unofficial affair and a 12-man-a-side match. The country rejoiced as the young BCB President?s XI got the whole English team back to their dressing room for a total of 253. A soggy outfield helped the BD team somewhat but due credits goes to bowlers as Enamul Jnr bagged 4 scalps to star in a superb Bangladesh bowling performance ? a performance that was rewarded handsomely by the selectors. However the bowling celebrations were cut short as the whole Bangladeshi innings was held for just 57 runs, Hoggard dealing the death blow with 6 wickets as Bangladesh?s batting weakness to fast bowling was once again exposed. England declared soon for their second innings and the BCB XI somehow managed to keep one wicket intact at the end of the third days play. Aftab Ahmed made a modest 45 which impressed the fans and also the selectors. Enamul Haque Jnr went home happy at the end of the third day with a 5-wicket match haul. The second tour match was held at BKSP against Bangladesh A team. Nafis Iqbal mesmerized with a sparkling 118. The young opener made some interesting comments on the English bowling after his innings. Fans rejoiced again with the prospect of a new stable opener. Unfortunately, like always the celebrations were premature. Besides Nafis? century the game was highlighted by the murder of a king cobra. The poor reptile in its wildest mood of adventure entered the spectators section and was inhumanly beaten to death? Not sure the word ?inhuman? applies to snakes? but oh well!
The first Test ? A match everyone will remember as the time when we almost made it. Atleast I thought we had a clear chance for a draw if not a win. Bangladesh won the toss and elected to bat. England had 2 debuts in Gareth Batty and and all rounder Rikki Clarke while Bangladesh brought in the young left arm spinner Enamul Haque Junior. The first days play was almost washed out with only 15 over being played with Bangladesh already loosing Javed Omar and Bashar cheaply. The next day wasn?t really a big highlight for the BD innings. But a fighting innings of 51 from Wicket keeper Mashud and some useful contributions from Mushfiq and Rafiue helped us push the first innings total past the 200 mark. The captain again failed to impress with the bat. The England replied strongly in their first innings. At the end of day 2 England were 111 for none and all seemed rather gloomy for Bangladesh. But day 3 was all about Bangladesh. The good nights rest brought out the best in Rafique, Mashrafee, the debutant Enamul and Mushfiq. And England?s innings was wrapped for 295. Trescothik still managing an innings of 113 runs and a half century from Graham Thrope followed. Bangladesh?s 2nd Innings started off well although England got an early breakthrough when Rajin Saleh was caught by Read off Harmison. But a well played half century from Hannan and Bashar put smiles on everyone?s faces. The smile could have been broadened had Bashar went on past his 58 run innings, but we are starting to accept the fact that Bashar will stay Bashar, and he fell to a rather soft dismissal soon after getting his half century. Again a mini collapse in the middle order left BD a little staggering but Mushfiq held fort and along with Mahmud managed to stay at crease till stumps at Day 4. Expectations were rolling high in everyone?s mind. What will happen, will BD go for some quick runs and give England a score to chase and then try to bowl them out. Or will they try staying in the middle and set a good total and aim for a draw. Either ways it would have been a great performance. However, fate had some other plans and Day 5 started with a disaster. Bangladesh innings was slaughtered and was brought to an end with just BD having a lead of 163 runs. Needless to say Mahmud failed to justify his inclusion again. England reached the total for the loss of 3 wickets. With the English captain leading the charge with 81. And England shattered all BD fans? hope to lead the series by 1-0.
2nd test was all about England. They went in to bat first and scored 326 ? Trescothik, Vaughn, Hussain and Read all scoring half centuries. Mashrafee claimed 4 wickets while Rafique chipped in with 2. Bangladesh?s first innings reply was far from being impressive. Javed Omar again failing to get to double figures. Bashar faltered again. Hannan looked good for his 28 and so did Rajin but none of the innings lasted very long and although another gritty innings from Mushfiq was appreciated by the fans the innings came to an end with BD scoring 152 runs trailing by a lot of runs. England?s second innings was declared for 293/4. Hussain and Thorpe sharing almost 150 runs among themselves. Rafique bowled 23 overs for his 3 wickets. The task set for Bangladesh seemed impossible and turned out we were not wrong. Bangladesh again had a batting collapse. Besides the 33 from Mahmud there were not many contributions worth mentioning. The huge loss was not the only bad thing after the Test ? the worst news about the 2nd Test was Mashrafee was injured and later it was announced that he will be out of cricketing action for atleast 8 months. A serious blow for the BD team ahead of the ODI series and more importantly the Zimbabwe series. Mashrafee bowled only 4 overs during England?s second innings and his absence from the attack was seriously felt as the bowling lineup faced much difficulty in containing the English batsmen. And moreover the necessity for a match- performing captain was even more evident as Mahmud clearly failed to show ANY notable contribution though out the match. The team needed more than a 33 run innings from him. After this test the speculations about winning a Test in the Zimbabwe is temporarily shelved.
I will come back with the rest of the series in the 2nd part of my report. See you all then.