What a fascinating, but somewhat bizarre, day of test cricket. I always expect the unexpected when England are concerned, but England’s odd team selection and illogical batting order left me totally perplexed. Throw in a pitch that spun from ball one, the fact that 92 overs were bowled during the day (usually we’re lucky to see 85), plus the realisation that England’s feeble looking score of 258-7 is probably quite competitive, and I’m completely dumbfounded. This is cricket in the subcontinent people, but not cricket in the subcontinent as we know it.
First of all, I can’t resist a mini rant about England’s team selection. Before the match, all the talk was whether Duckett or Hameed would open with Cook. The assumption was that Duckett would slot in at 4 if the teenager got the nod. Nobody, and I mean nobody, expected Gary Ballance to play. And why should they? He’s not a particularly good player of spin (not on the evidence we’ve seen thus far) and he’s looked effing awful in his last few test matches. I’m sorry Trev, but there was no rationale whatsoever to include a batsman who possibly shouldn’t even be on the tour.
England’s batting order, and the inclusion of Gareth Batty, also made about as much sense as a Swahili soap opera. Why on earth was Jonny Bairstow batting as low as 7? He’s scored runs for fun at six at looked a dead cert for a promotion to number five. Instead he was rewarded with a demotion. Erm, logic?
I was also a little sad to see Batty’s name on the teamsheet. As a Worcestershire fan I really like Batty and have fond memories of the guy. He’s a good bowler and he’ll probably do a decent job for the team. But why on earth have we picked two orthodox off-spinners (plus Joe Root)? The last time we did that – it was against Australia in the early nineties when Emburey and Such played – our attack looked one dimensional and we got absolutely hammered.
All I can say is that the management must have zero confidence in Moeen and Rashid if they need Batty as a safety blanket. It would have made far more sense to pick Ansari, whose left-armers would have provided variation. If the management don’t think Mo and Rashid are up to the job then they shouldn’t be in the team in the first place.
Anyway, enough spleen venting, I should probably get on to the cricket. Is 258-7 a decent score? I suspect it probably is, although it really depends how England’s spinners bowl against Bangladesh’s top six. The worry, of course, is that Mo and Rashid won’t be able to keep control. Fortunately the pitch is already turing quite a lot, so our bowlers should have every opportunity to cash in.
I don’t want to sound too negative though. Although I’m a bit exasperated as an England supporter, the pure cricket lover in me is delighted at the way this game is shaping up. We see far too many dull high scoring games when England tour this part of the world. It’s reassuring to see the bowlers get some assistance on day one.
It was also good to see Bangladesh’s teenaged spinner Mehedi Hasan enjoy such a fine start to his test career. He bowled with poise, control and great enthusiasm. He thoroughly deserved his five wickets and I suspect he’ll enjoy a long career. If he was English, he’d be up to Lilleshall in a flash, where he’d no doubt learn the values of a negative leg-side line and an exclusively flat trajectory. In time, he might even become a decent T20 spinner.
My advice to Mehedi is therefore this: don’t you go changing son.