At 11am this morning I thought England were having a great day. Bangladesh had collapsed from 171-1 to a dismal 220 all out and we had all the momentum. I was an idiot to think the game was in the bag. I’ve watched England enough over the years to know that disaster is never far away – even when you’re playing the 9th ranked test team in the world.
Even though the rational side of my brain said “this pitch seems to be moving off the seam and spinning quite sharply”, I felt a strange sense of calm when Cook and Duckett strolled out to bat. The skipper’s due I thought. He averages about a million in the subcontinent whilst Duckett faced better bowlers than this when he scored a double ton for the Lions against Pakistan A. Everything will be fine. At that point I put the TV on standby and ventured out for half an hour.
You can imagine my shock when I checked the score at 11.30. Duckett? Gone. Cook? Gone. Ballance? Gone. Ok, the last one wasn’t exactly a shock but you know what I mean. The rational side of my brain was taunting the foolishly optimistic side: “I told you so, you twat”.
England are now in a rather large spot of bother. If Joe Root goes early on tomorrow morning we’ll be in all kinds of poop. Don’t forget that England will have to bat last on this rather, erm, ‘sporting’ surface. Perhaps the amazing Tamin Iqbal has played the game’s defining innings already?
I guess day one can be summarised thus: bat dominated ball for three hours, then the ball dominated bat. I didn’t get up at 5am, so I have no idea whether the pitch played differently in the first session, but from what I saw batting looked very hard work. There was decent carry, a lot of swing, unnerving turn and quite a lot of bounce for the spinners too. Moeen Ali looked like bloody Jim Laker.
It was impossible not to feel chuffed for Mo. He bowled really, really well. He bowled at his usual brisk pace (which just happened to be the right pace for this surface) and he gave the ball a rip too. It was as if Monty had returned to the fold as a right armer. If only he could produce this kind of performance more often. It was just his second five wicket haul in his 32nd test.
I guess Moeen’s performance was the one real positive from the day. We expect Ben Stokes to bowl well these days, and Chris Woakes has set himself high standards too, but I don’t think anyone saw Mo’s masterclass coming. Hopefully this performance will give him the confidence he’s been missing since his first summer in an England shirt, when he bowled remarkably well against India in England. What a shame that our ruddy useless batsmen spoiled his big day.
Before I sign off I should probably mention the pitch. There was a fair bit of disquiet on social media. A couple of well respected pundits even described it as unsuitable for test cricket.
I’m afraid I don’t agree with this assessment. Nobody complains when England doctor pitches (see Nottingham, 2015). Besides, Tamin Iqbal seemed to cope quite well with conditions. Nobody was talking about the surface when he was blasting poor Zafar Ansari into the next galaxy.
Let’s wait and see what happens in the rest of this game before we condemn the pitch. Only 13 wickets fell on day one, which doesn’t suggest a total minefield, and I’d rather see interesting cricket (that prepares England well for India) than sit through five dull days of batsmen filling their boots.