Rahim Delay

Graeme Swann took 10 wickets. Alastair Cook brought up his maiden Test ton as England captain with a 6 on a wicket so flat you could have used it as an ironing board. England racked up runs gifted to them by Shakib Al Hasan’s blunder in choosing to bowl, and aided by a weak Bangladesh bowling attack Ian Bell scored 84 and 39 not out. England still took five days to win.

Alastair Cook didn’t enforce the follow-on despite being 303 runs ahead. Graeme Swann later attributed this to the tiredness of the bowlers who toiled all day on a wicket which admittedly offered nothing to the seamers. But if the rain which was forecast but never showed up had curtailed the match on Day 5 questions would surely have been asked. Swann bowled 78.3 overs, 36 per cent of the entire overs bowled by England in this Test match. Whether it was solely Cook’s decision, or whether Andy Flower had input as to whether or not pick James Tredwell and thus burden Swann with the lion’s share of the bowling, we will perhaps never know.

The fact is that over-cautious captaincy and short-sighted selection along with an opposition that refused to lie down and die quickly prolonged this Test match far longer than it should have been. This is not to denigrate Bangladesh: many have argued that they do not deserve Test status but they did improve throughout this match. Tamim Iqbal is a superb talent: he top-scored in Bangladesh’s 1st innings with 86, and his swashbuckling 125 in the first ODI was sublime. He is only 20 years old so there is still time to get that rashness out of his system that sometimes results in the needless squandering of his wicket. Junaid Siddique also scored a maiden century and Swann’s sendoff was perhaps a tad ungracious, but at the same time a reflection of just how big a thorn in England’s side Bangladesh’s resistance had become.

Mushfiqur Rahim’s been the player who has really impressed me, though. He kept the first innings going with a doughty 79 and a wild swipe dancing down the wicket to Graeme Swann got him out for 95 in the second. His 167-run partnership with Siddique kept England waiting for victory, with not a single wicket falling before lunch. He’s also only 5ft 4″ and his interview with Bob Willis at the end of Day 4 was worth its weight in gold for the mind-boggling discrepancy in scale. His work with the gloves is questionable but surely there’s a case to be made for pushing him up the order. Bangladesh will also be hoping Raqibul Hasan has a change of heart regarding his retirement from international cricket as they could do with him at number 4, with Tamim and Junaid opening and Mushfiqur at 3. Shahadat Hossain and Imrul Kayes should probably be dropped, with Shafiul Islam coming in for Shahadat, who’s been vociferous but toothless in this match.

James Tredwell must play in the next Test to provide support for Swann. Michael Carberry should be the one to make way as on a Dhaka deck that threatens to be flatter than this one it could be argued England already have enough batsmen and Carberry has not done enough to give the selectors a reason to retain him. This means that either Trott or Bell should open with Cook: Bell would be my preferred option as the last thing a brooding Jonathan Trott needs is to be shunted up and down the order. Broad looks tired and not altogether fit; they should rest him for the next Test and play Plunkett. The ECB says Paul Collingwood isn’t injured but he required a cortisone injection in his left shoulder and didn’t bowl, so he too remains a concern. Finn, aside from a nervy first spell, deserves more opportunities beyond this tour and it’ll be interesting to see him on a wicket with more bounce.

Cook’s captaincy hasn’t convinced me of anything other than competence displayed within the cautious cradle of a temporary appointment. His is a place-holder captaincy for a resting Strauss and his inexperience showed. Bangladesh, though, fought with honour and refused to be pushovers, and hopefully they can continue improving.

Swann was again superb, and Pietersen’s return to form encouraging. It would be nice, though, to see an England that didn’t make victory such hard work.

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