Bangladesh Test Series Preview: A Glorified Net?

I’ll come clean. I follow cricket closely – I’ve been writing this blog since 2009 – but even I don’t have a clue what to expect from the hosts in this week’s first test. Although we’ve seen them up close in the ODIs (and they looked very competitive), the limited overs stuff is so very different. Bangladesh haven’t played a test match for over a year so the form guide is basically blank. It’s a step into the unknown for just about everyone.

I’m not going to pretend there aren’t question marks about England’s batting and spin bowling, but our team looks relatively settled in comparison to Bangladesh likely XI. Their main problem is the absence of their three most penetrative seam bowlers. Mashrafe Mortaza, Mustafizur Rahman and Taskin Ahmed have either retired from test cricket, are injured, or have been excluded. Alastair Cook might well bat for three days straight. It’s hard to see how anyone will dismiss him on what’s expected to be a flat pitch. Joe Root might well fill his boots too – unless he gets bored and scoops a catch to deep midwicket.

England will hope, of course, that this series is a handy warm-up for the India tour. Bangladesh have a couple of decent spinners – well, they’ve got Shakib anyway – but unfortunately they don’t have anyone in Ravi Ashwin’s class. There’s Shuvagata Hom, who I’ve never seen bowl, and Medehi Hasan, an off spinner who apparently looked good playing for Bangladesh U19 – which is hardly the best endorsement. When the Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha said last week “don’t expect us to do miracles straight away” he may have had a point.

In terms of the home team’s batting, one imagines they’re rely heavily on mainstays Tamin Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Shakib and Mushfiqur Rahim. However, the guy I’m looking forward to watching is young Mominul Haque, who has four test centuries and averages over 50 in his seventeen tests to date. They’ll need big contributions from these five players if they want to post competitive totals.

As for England, I’m intrigued to know what our final XI will be. Most people seem to think that Hameed is a dead cert to open with Cook but I still think Ben Duckett has a chance. Both made patient half centuries in the first innings of the warm-up match against the Bangladesh Cricket Board. Bayliss has long tried to shoehorn a positive foil for Cook into the side. Perhaps he’s a secret Duckett man?

The intriguing thing for me is that Jos Buttler batted at 5, ahead of Gary Ballance, Stokes, Ansari and Moeen. This was something of a shock because many predicted that Mo would bat up the order this winter. Once again, the management seem determined to give Jos every opportunity to establish himself as a test player, despite the fact that he doesn’t really move his feet and seems far more adept at limited overs stuff (also see Hales, Alex).

I’ve lost count of the number of times either Bayliss, Farbrace, or one of the selectors, has backed Buttler to become a good test player. Farbrace was at it again last week. Personally I don’t believe Jos should be on the tour because he’s played so little first class cricket in the last year, has a modest first-class record anyway, and isn’t much of an improvement over Bairstow behind the stumps. I would’ve taken Ben Foakes, who played a whole season for Surrey and impressed with both bat and ball.

When it comes to the bowlers, the star of the show thus far has been Zafar Ansari. He took 4-68 with his slow-left armers in the Bangladesh Board XI’s first innings. If the England selectors are going to stick with Mo, I’d rather Ansari play ahead of Batty because I don’t see any point whatsoever in having two orthodox off-spinners (plus Joe Root) in the same side.

There’s also Adil Rashid, of course, who hasn’t bowled in the match so far. I’d love to see Rashid become a viable test leggie but he’ll need to show more consistency than he did in the ODI series. He still bowls too many loose deliveries. Kohli and Co will be licking their lips until he heeds Yoda’s advice: “control, control, you must learn control”.

So what do you think? Will England steamroller Bangladesh and go to India full of (false?) confidence, or will the hosts put up a fight and give England’s management something to think about? It’s all very well having plenty of options – and the selectors have certainly given Bayliss and Cook that – but I wonder whether there’s enough time to ascertain what the best options are. Sometimes a surfeit of alternatives, and low intensity fourteen-a-side games, can confuse a team’s thinking.

James Morgan


  • In Buttler, England possess one of the world’s most gifted and destructve batsmen. Only in England would he be done down with epithets like ” but of course, he’s played very little red ball cricket and doesn’t “deserve” to be on the tour”
    Any other team would give their eye teeth to have a man of Buttler’s eye watering talent in their side.
    Bayliss can see all this…he gets it..he wants to nurture and empower Buttler within the Test arena, porbably in the belief he can be one of the great Test batsmen.
    He’s backing talent…it’s what all good managers and coaches do!

    • There’s a big difference between ODIs and test cricket. Talent alone isn’t necessarily enough in the test arena – it’s just as much about technique and mental resilience as pure talent. Michael Bevan was one of the best one day players of all time but he never cracked test cricket. In terms of England, Graeme Hick and Neil Fairbrother were other superbly talented ODI players who never fulfilled their potential.

      It’s hard to expect any batsman to go straight into a test match after playing, what, two first class matches in the past year? I’m happy to stand by that comment. There has to be a risk that Jos is undercooked in the longer form.

      I like Jos Buttler a great deal. I think he’s one of the best, if not THE best, limited overs players we’ve ever had. He also seems like a good down to earth guy. I’d like nothing more than to see him smashing the Aussies to all parts next winter. However – and this is the bit I can’t ignore – he has the 13th best (6th worst) first class average of any regular keeper in county cricket. Logic tells me that if he can’t dominate in the county championship, he’s very unlikely to make it in test cricket.

      Jos has a first class average of 32 after more than 100 innings. Guys like Hick and Ramprakash averaged 50 in county cricket, and were just as talented as Buttler, but never made it. What’s more, I’m not sure how committed Buttler is to first class cricket. I asked Nasser Hussain how much he practices his first class method (and works on his technique) to which Nasser replied ‘if you were Jos, would you want to?’. Reading between the lines I got the impression that test cricket isn’t really his priority. I could be wrong, but that’s the sense everyone there got.

      I also think that England should have picked the best pure keeper available as Bairstow’s backup. Chances might be at a premium this winter in India. Ben Foakes is now considered to be the best pure keeper in the country, and he’s a good batsman too. He averaged over 40 in the championship last year and played a full season. It’s therefore harsh to exclude him in favour of someone who simply has amazing natural talent but very little in terms of performances at first class level to back that up.

      I hope Jos turns into a superb test batsman – and proves the doubters completely wrong – but based on objective assessment i.e. past performance and his record in county cricket, I think it’s more likely he fails than succeeds at this point. I guess we’ll find out!

      • Your blog analysis of Buttler was spot on James. The difference between white and red ball cricket is that the former relies on a good eye whilst the latter requires technique and shot selection (and patience). Buttler has a great eye but none of the other attributes. My big fear is that he will play and do well against a poor Bangladesh and the England powers will immediately laud him as a test bat.

        Your comments on Buttler’s batting could also apply to Duckett. I would not want to be quite as sure about Duckett but from what I have seen of him (only in white ball) he plays away from his pads (lethal in a test against good seam bowling) and gets his feet in strange positions (especially playing square on the off from the back foot). I would rather see what Hameed can do as he looks a much more likely test bat.

        • I know what you’re saying re: Duckett. I’m yet to see him for any extended period of time in first class cricket so I’m hoping his shot selection won’t be the same as when he plays one-dayers. What reassures me is that he’s had success opening in the championship (albeit in division two) and he has a decent conversion rate too: ten tons to fourteen fifties. I guess time will tell!

      • I could watch Buttler forever but there is no arguing with any of this. If Nass is right and he is not that interested in red ball, speculation on a test career for him should stop there. Folkes as reserve keeper is then the logical way to go. ?

    • For once I agree with you. I would love to see Buttler coming good in the test side but the reservations put forward by the rest are there to be seen. I was interested in James’ chat with Nasser. If Jos has decided that white ball is the way to go for him, so be it, but what a shame.

    • Some players, ie Root, are good enough that they don’t really have to adjust their natural games too much regardless of what format they play. An attacking flamboyant Test batsman who scores at a run a ball becomes a solid T20 batsman without really changing his game.

      Buttler is not such a batsman. His natural scoring rate is about 10/over. To make the adjustment to test cricket from how he naturally bats is huge.

      Can we learn the lesson here? All that happens if you try to force a player to adjust their natural game is that their natural game suffers and they become mediocre at all formats. It happened to Buttler first time round, it happened to Hales, it will happen to Roy if we try to stick him in the test team.

  • How came the Banglas haven’t picked Taksin? I would have thought their seam bowling would have been weak without the injured Mustafizur. Can still see England finding problems v spin unless Cook and Root are in form.

    • The Taskin situation seems a little odd. He’s just had his action remodelled and he’s still young, so the impression I’ve got is that they’re trying to look after him and bring him on slowly in first class cricket. He’s playing for the Bangladesh Board XI though so it seems a little odd to exclude him from the test squad. I think he looks like a good bowler and I have no problem with his action.

      • The circumstances in which Taskin were referred in the first place were odd. He was referred because one umpire suspected his action when bowling a bouncer in a T20I WC match. The analysis of his action revealed that he didn’t his bouncer was legal, but two other deliveries weren’t. The work undertaken to remedy his action was outlined here:

        There’s a line in there that reads to me like the inspectors didn’t think there was anything wrong with his action in the first place. A current degree of flexion of 5% is massively within the law.

        The whole ting was pretty unsatisfactory. The sooner on-field sensors are available the better – I remember Atherton talking about research on them over a year ago. Obviously the ICC has higher priorities than sorting this out (like deciding to put Giles Clarke in charge of Pakistan’s finances, as they did last week). The punitive action taken against Taskin also stands in stark comparison to Andre Russell playing throughout the T20I WC after missing drugs’ tests and continuing to play since. I recommend reading the recent Guardian article on cortisone in cycling to gain some insights into that drug – and it isn’t even one of the banned ones.

  • “I don’t see any point whatsoever in having two orthodox off-spinners (plus Joe Root) in the same side”.

    I suspect the point is that Bangladesh are likely to have four LHBs in their top seven (unlike India who are likely to have at most one). Not saying it’s a good point, mind you.

    • It’s an amazing stat that. Some of our all rounders bat better than the so called specialists!

      • Ali’s playing of spin, I think may be really important as to how England go. His performances in the last couple of tests v Pakistan and especially Yasir were superb and for me make him a better bet against good quality spin than say Ballance at least and probably Stokes. The problem is that the latter was really poor when he played in the lower parts of the order previously. I wonder how Woakes will go as he’s started to bring his batting game from county cricket (where he averages 36) to test cricket.

      • The England team in the famous game at the Oval in 1902 all scored f/c centuries (Hirst and Rhodes getting them in singles and all that).

  • Even if it wasn’t clear before the start, it is now. If England do try and treat this series as a “glorified net”, they will come badly unstuck. Bangladesh at home, in any format, are not to be taken lightly.


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