When a weaker test nation plays a stronger one, they’re often competitive for a couple of days. But when defensive push comes to leg side shovel, a bad session usually buries them. We saw it all the time with England in the nineties. The team does just enough to get our hopes up but then collapses in a heap.
That’s exactly what’s happened to Bangladesh in Chittagong today. They simply couldn’t live with England forever. The tourists have too many stars, and it was a star performance from Ben Stokes that has all but settled this match.
The Durham all rounder, who will be warming up for next summer’s tests in the second division of the championship, was irresistible with both ball and bat. He knocked over the Bangladesh tail – making up for the disappointing performance of England’s spinners yesterday – and then rescued his side with a belligerent yet considered 85 with the bat.
When England’s top order collapsed for the second time in this match, there was still a glimmer of hope for the home team. But Stokes, in partnership with the ever impressive Jonny Bairstow, dug us out of a hole for the second time in the match and then slowly built what should prove to be an unassailable position.
Jonny has done well in this game. His batting has been as solid as ever – he’s now scored more runs in a calendar year than any wicket-keeper in test history – and he’s also kept tidily too. There was a slight glitch yesterday when he juggled what should have been a very straightforward catch, but other than that he’s looked very solid. Perhaps all that hard work is slowly paying off? He’s certainly moving better and his hands seem softer than they did a few months ago. Let’s hope this improvement is sustained.
England’s overnight lead is now approaching 300. Personally I think 250 would have been enough. Bangladesh are an emerging side with some useful batsmen but they have very little experience when it comes to chasing fourth innings totals. They might end up proving me wrong, but I severely doubt they have the composure to get anywhere near their likely target.
There will be time for more prolonged reflection after this test match – England’s top order has been pretty lamentable and I’m sure we’d all like to see a change or two – but personally I’m just glad this has been an interesting game. It’s so refreshing to watch a test match where 300 is a competitive first innings score and there’s something in it for both batsmen and bowlers.
What’s more, I don’t think the toss has been too decisive either. From what I’ve seen, the pitch is turning but not dramatically more than it did on day one. If there were more test matches like this, I’m sure test cricket would be thriving. Who wants to see bore draws on absolute roads?