Bangladesh have turned themselves into a useful one-day outfit. They have some flamboyant batsmen, useful all-rounders, and a couple of tidy spinners capable of stemming the run flow. What they don’t have, however, is dangerous pacemen, tactical awareness and self-discipline. Unfortunately for the hosts, these are the qualities that Test cricket requires. On Friday’s evidence, it’s easy to see why so many observers believe the ICC was hasty in granting them full test status. Before this game, the hosts had won just two of their sixty odd tests; so when Cook and Carberry got England off to a flyer on the first morning, it was no surprise that their self-confidence evaporated faster than the early moisture that Shakib Al Hasan had naively predicted when he won the toss and asked England to bat.
A ‘test’ match is supposed to be just that – a test. But the hardest part of Alistair Cook and Kevin Pietersen’s day was deciding which billboard to aim at as they smashed the Bangladesh attack around the park at will. It was easy peasy lemon squeezy; a childish expression maybe, but somehow it seems the most appropriate way to describe England’s progress (after all, even England U-11s would have fancied their chances of posting a decent score against today’s opponents). Ok, that’s a bit of a cheap shot. After all, Bangladesh are producing some excellent young players (and their U-19s recently defeated England in a one-day series). However, for the moment they are simply not up to test standard. It’s always good to encourage the expansion of the game, but it’s also important not to cheapen Test cricket. Batting and bowling averages around the world have already been skewed by Bangladesh’s premature elevation to test status. It is simply not right that newcomers like Michael Carberry are making their debuts against weaker bowling attacks than they face week in week out in domestic cricket.
Today’s play can be summarised in a few lines – so here’s the gist of it. England’s team selection was extraordinarily negative. They decided they needed six batsmen (with Bresnan coming in as low as 10!) and only four bowlers (despite the energy sapping heat and the fitness cloud over Stuart Broad). That meant that James Tredwell missed out on a first test cap. However, at least we resisted the temptation to play two seamers and two off spinners; a ridiculous strategy we last employed in 1993, when Australia filled their boots against a pitiful attack of Martin Bicknell, Mark Ilott, Peter Such and John Emburey. However, the consensus in the Sky studio was that although England’s selection was nonsensical, they would probably win irrespective of who they picked. This optimism seemed well founded when Bangladesh won the toss and decided to bowl on a batsman’s paradise … a decision which had Rob Key in hysterics; although it was hard to tell whether he was laughing at the promotion of Carberry (who has earned an England debut after one good season for Hampshire) over his good self (who has had several for Kent).
Ninety overs later England had amassed a mighty 374-3. Cook was unbeaten on 158 and Collingwood was with him on 32 not out. Although the skipper played impressively and showed signs that he had expanded his game, it must be stressed that the bowling was about as challenging as Worcestershire’s (so no doubt Shakib Al Hasan will fit in well at New Road next season). The day was only really notable for Pietersen’s welcome return to form. To counter his problems against left arm spin, KP decided to try and stay inside the line of the ball and aim predominantly through extra cover. It seemed to do the trick. Although he was somewhat predictably out for 99, misjudging the length of a straight one from Razzak, at least he didn’t get out trying to hit a six.