Is Your Head Spinning? Day One at Chittagong

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.

James Morgan


  • I only watched the last half hour before lunch and it did look a tricky pitch. Given that England were 21-3, to have got up to 258-7 is a decent effort and will of course need context once England bowl. I’ve thought that a lot of bowlers will be used over the next few weeks. The seamers, as they will find it tough to back up given 7 tests in around 8 weeks, and heaven knows if Anderson will even play. The spinners will find themselves in and out of the team as I’m fairly sure they will find bowling at proficient players of the turning ball a pretty steep order, especially if they have problems bowling a tidy length.

    For what it’s worth I wouldn’t necessarily back against Mo taking a few wickets as when he does get the ball in the right area, he is dangerous. Batty will be tidy, which is probably why he’s been picked and will probably put in more overs than Mo who will probably be used as more of a ‘strike’ bowler.

  • A good day’s test cricket for a number of reasons. Firstly, 92 overs were bowled in 6 hours. Second, the contest has ebbed and flowed as the start of a proper test series should (by the way, your “glorified net” comment looks very wide of the mark). Third, there was a reasonably even contest between bat and ball. The inclusion of Ballance is utterly baffling. I agree with your comment that “there was no rationale whatsoever to include a batsman who possibly shouldn’t even be on the tour”, although I prefer it without the word “possibly”. I’d hoped to see Hameed open with Cook, and Duckett at 4 (with a name like that he should have played against the 1980’s West Indians!). I think 5-7 were in the wrong order: YJB, Moeen, Stokes would probably have been right, but they still rescued the side. I’d agree Ansari would have been a better bet than Batty, but you can hardly compare Chittagong to Australia (even Sydney).

    • Agreed re: the middle order line up. That would’ve been my preferred order too.

      By the way, the ‘glorified net’ comment was a question not a statement. I asked whether people thought it would be a glorified net … I didn’t say it would be :-)

  • “I’m sorry Trev”.

    Why the assumption he was the driving force behind the decision? The media had all been saying Hameed will be playing until a couple of days ago. The change coincided with when Cook returned to Bangladesh. He looks like the one who drove the decision to me.

    • I imagine Cook might have had some input into his opening partner but I doubt he was the driving force behind Ballance at 4.

      Do you think Duckett would’ve played at 4 if Hameed had been preferred at the top of the order? Personally I don’t think so. I guess Ballance was the man in possession from last summer.

      • As soon as Autocorrect was named in the squad, he was nailed down for the first leg of the Autumn. They wouldn’t pick a (comparatively) experienced guy as drinks waiter. Shame, but not a surprise, on reflection.

  • Difficult to disagree with your comments James. My only issue would be around the batting order. Whilst I agree that Bairstow should now be at 5, I would have liked to see more intelligence and flexibility from the England management at 6-9. Stokes and Ali are always liable to depart cheaply on a spinning wicket, mainly because of their inclination to attack and play ODI style shots. We dodged a bullet with Ali today. Woakes demonstrated his ability to play spin in the summer and, of all the all rounders, he is the least inclined to a rush of blood. Given the pitch, bowling and situation an intelligent and flexible captain and coach would have promoted Woakes up the order.

  • Bairstow at 7 as he is the WK? Yes, I know England batted first, but perhaps in the sub-continent he might need some space and time after keeping throughout the innings (isn’t batting order decided beforehand?) Depending on whose having an off day, Bairstow, Stokes and Moeen are pretty interchangeable at 5 6 7.

  • The problem with the batting order is that Bairstow stokes and moeen are all 6’s, personally I think they got the order right as it means mo needs to warrant a place as a batsman which I think he does comfortably. Stokes should never be lower than 6…

    • I have to disagree about Stokes. A no 6 who is a classic white ball bat may be justified if they can average into the 40s. Stokes has an almost identical average to Ali and Woakes in the low 30s – and this despite having his average boosted from circa 27 by that wonderful 258. Stokes can play exceptional innings but does so once every 10 – and that is no record for a no 6. His technique, temperament and shot selection is that of a 7 or 8.

      • Peter Moores tried batting Stokes at No.8 and it was a disaster. As Paul Collingwood said, bat Stokes at No.8 and he’ll bat like a No.8.

        You really think Ali or Woakes could have made that 258? Or made a century in Perth against MJ and the rest while the team was disintegrating?

        • What Paul Collingwood did not say is that 9 times out of 10 he will bat like a no8 wherever you bat him. I am not opposed to Stokes; I think he, Ali and Woakes provide a really good lower middle order but you have made my point for me – given the innings you cite what on earth has he done with the bat in between? You cannot have a 5 or 6 who will let you down most of the time. I would not have him in the team for his batting and anyone at 6 needs to be capable of holding a batting place. It is a good job he makes a fine 3rd or 4th seamer.

  • At tea time on the 2nd day, Bangladesh are 119-3. They have largely had a good session but a late wicket from Rashid puts the game back a little bit more in the balance. Not really been that impressed with either Rashid or Batty but the former’s late wicket may give him a bit more confidence. That said Tamim has looked good for his 50 and Shakib and Musfiqur are arguably their best 2 players. Could do with picking up a couple of wickets early in the last session for England to actually be on top.

  • Re “Nobody, and I mean nobody, expected Gary Ballance to play.”:

    Well, Aggers did say in advance that he’d pick Ballance:

    And Will Macpherson’s report of the warm-up matches made it clear Ballance was being considered:

    I’m not claiming it was the correct choice, but by the time the match started it wasn’t completely surprising — and kudos to those journalists who did anticipate it.

    • I expected him to play.
      Hales opted out, Vince dropped. Dropping Ballance would have meant 3 changes in a revolving door of a top five.
      Whilst Ballance only did ok in the summer is rated as a good player vs spin and so fully expected (once picked in squad) to start.


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