Report by Neil Robinson 03/11/03
After their tenacious efforts in the opening Test at Dhaka, Bangladesh reverted to type with a limp batting display which allowed England to complete a comfortable and comprehensive 329-run win inside four days in the second Test at Chittagong.
Shot out for 152 from 62.1 overs in their first innings, they then wilted before Englandís pace barrage and a mountainous target of 468 and were turned over in just 37.1 overs for a meagre 138. This despite the weakening of Englandís attack through the absence with a back injury of Dhaka hero Stephen Harmison and the debilitating effects on his strike partner Matthew Hoggard of playing back to back Tests in such searing heat and humidity. Kent swing bowler Martin Saggers had a creditable Test debut while Richard Johnson bagged an impressive match haul of 9-93 in only his second Test following his spectacular first appearance against Zimbabwe at Chester-le-Street last spring.
Put in to bat by the optimistic home skipper Khaled Mahmud, England got off to a rattling start with Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick posting an opening stand of 126. Only the nippy swingers of Mashrafe Mortaza caused any kind of deliberation, Trescothick even taking 19 off one over from the left-arm spin of Enamul Haq as England threatened to run away with the match in the first two sessions. It was clearly something of an unexpected bonus for Bangladesh when Trescothick drove Mahmud loosely to backward point, and it heralded the touristsí only weak spell of the match. Butcher fell for just 6, bowled playing inside a straight delivery from Mohammad Rafique, Vaughan soon followed, nicking a firm-footed drive at Mortaza, and when, two balls later, Thorpe thrust a crooked bat at another Mortaza delivery and watched it cannon back onto the stumps off an inside edge, 4 wickets for just 8 runs had seen Englandís position of strength evaporate.
But this is just the sort of situation which Nasser Hussain relishes (a useful attribute for an England batsman of his generation). It wasnít pretty, it was sometimes precarious, but he stayed there. With him stayed young Rikki Clarke, who made the most of his reprieve from the match referee at Dhaka to strike 8 fours en route to a sparky maiden 50 filled with positive on-side strokeplay. Comfortably outscoring Hussain, Clarke put his frustrating debut behind him with a confident showing both with bat and ball in this game. But it is his batting which has thus far impressed most observers in his brief career. He used the extra bounce in this pitch to show off an almost Vaughan-like pull shot, while the lofted on-drive off the spinner which brought him to 50 was as classy as anything played by Vaughan or Trescothick earlier in the day.
Having taken England to a respectable 237-4 by the close, both batsmen must have had centuries in their sights the following morning. Sadly, for neither of them was it meant to be. Clarke added only two to his overnight 53 before he became Mashrafe Mortazaís third victim of the innings. Hussain then continued in his anchor role as Chris Read came to the fore with a characteristically ebullient knock. The pair had put on 63 when Read was snared at bat-pad off Haq for 37. Hussain soon followed for 76, his three-hour vigil ending with a nibble outside off-stump at Mortaza. Giles, Johnson and Saggers managed to extend the innings by another 50 minutes, but by only 13 runs and the final total of 326 offered Bangladesh the hope of another close contest in the Dhaka mould.
But such hopes had faded by the end of the second day. Having lost Harmison to injury, then seen the extra pace and bounce in this pitch, England had gambled on going into this match with just one front-line spinner. It was a gamble that paid off handsomely. Ashley Giles, who is in the middle of remedial work on his action, bowled just 7 wicketless overs in this match and seemed a very peripheral figure. Englandís four seamers, on the other hand, bowled their hearts out and bowled to a plan. The bouncy pitch had given England the idea of unsettling the hosts with a barrage of short deliveries. This is more Richard Johnsonís game than his colleaguesí, a fact reflected in his dominance of the wickets column, but the more classical, pitch it up and swing it habits of Hoggard, Saggers and Clarke didnít prevent them from joining in with the plan wholeheartedly and effectively. The hosts, frankly, did not like it up Ďem.
Itís not something you often say about the England team, but, when necessary, there has been a pleasing degree of Ďcold steelí about them on this tour. The kind of ruthlessness which will be essential against more capable opposition, the recognition that hard work and preparation are still required against less talented opponents, typified by Hussainís efforts, have come to the fore here. That England gambled in playing just one spinner is not in itself significant or unusual, that the gamble was allied to a plan and the plan carried out to the letter just might be.
Johnson struck in the fourth over, Javed Omar caught by Vaughan for 2. In the context of what was to follow, the second wicket partnership of 38 between Hannan Sarkar and Habibul Bashar was something of a triumph for the hosts. But it was still just a 40-minute interlude before the next wicket fell, Bashar held low at slip by Butcher off Hoggard. Sarkar added another 17 with Rajin Saleh before being trapped in front by Clarke, who followed up by finding Alok Kapaliís edge with his very next ball, Butcher taking another good, low catch. If his two wickets in two balls were straight out of the manual of Martin Bicknell, Clarkeís mentor at The Oval, the hat-trick ball was more like Andrew Caddick, fizzing unpleasantly past the end of Mushfiqur Rahmanís nose.
Saleh and Rahman managed to add 30 before the close, but worse was to follow on day 3. A short, straightish ball from Johnson produced a perplexing cut from Saleh and a straightforward edge into Readís gloves to leave the hosts dangling on 107-5. If that was more a misjudgement of line than length, Johnsonís next two wickets showed to the full his unnerving ability to make the ball rear suddenly from a seemingly harmless length, Khaled Mashud and Khaled Mahmud both failing to get on top of the ball and steering it to substitute fielder Paul Collingwood. Saggers then chipped in with the first wicket of his Test career, a classic outswinger edged to the keeper by Mushfiqur Rahman (who had again hung on for 150 minutes). Johnson then clean bowled Mortaza, who was attempting a shot which might have been the first stage of a Bangladeshi space programme, before Saggers finished things off by luring Haq into an injudicious hook which flew down to Hoggard at long leg.
With a first innings lead of 174, Englandís only concern now was the loss of Trescothick to a finger injury picked up in the slips the previous evening. But the gap at the top of the order was admirably filled by Butcher, who drove the first ball of the innings thrugh extra cover for four much as Trescothick might have done. Another confident start for the tourists had reached 66 by the time Butcher edged a cut off Rafique. The second wicket fell four runs later, the England captain run-out thanks to a breakdown in communications with his predecessor. It was schoolboy stuff, Hussain playing the ball behind square and setting off for his first run without a word, Vaughan following suit without a murmur. Behind square, it was Vaughanís call, no question, and he could have averted trouble by a swift and certain call of ďno!Ē. But instead, both batsmen tried to communicate by a sort of telepathy, and their thoughts only coincided when each noticed that the run wasnít on but that his partner was coming on anyway. What followed is known to northerners as the ĎBoycott Quickstepí; ďyes, no, yes, no! Bollocks!Ē
Vaughan now back in the hutch, it fell to Hussain and Thorpe to set the kind of total England needed. Again, the foundation of Hussainís innings was a desperately slow and painful business (the Boycott influence again, perhaps), but the end result was solid enough. Thorpe played with his accustomed certainty and skill and Hussain began to drive straight with good timing and footwork. It began to look like a long and difficult day for Bangladesh.
The most attractive batting of this series probably came during Trescothickís 113 at Dhaka, but the partnership of 138 assembled here by Englandís two most experienced operators perhaps marked the point where it finally became clear how great the gap between the two sides was. After careful starts, neither man looked in the slightest difficulty against an increasingly innocuous attack. Bangladesh were not helped by the loss of their best bowler, Mashrafe Mortaza to a serious knee injury suffered when following through early in the innings. Although not career threatening, it looks likely to keep him out for several months. But that is just the sort of bad luck which afflicts a struggling side, as England know from their own experience.
Again, centuries seemed on the cards for the England batsmen. Again, they failed. Six times in this match an England batsman passed 50, not one went on to 100. This may well be down to fatigue, humidity, heat, but the same problems will be there in Sri Lanka next month where even bigger totals will be required. It was a surprise when Thorpe, having made 54, misjudged the spin of Rafique and was lbw, still more so when Hussain, 95 and going strong, popped up a simple return catch to Haq. It was a moment strongly reminiscent of his soft dismissal at the hands of Jacques Rudolph against South Africa a few months ago, even if the shot itself was not quite so limp.
It was perhaps solely for the purpose of lifting the target over the psychological barrier of 400 that Rikki Clarke , suffering from a virus, was sent out to join Chris Read at the crease, perhaps solely because the England captain was enjoying the sight of their lively partnership that they remained out there long after this point was passed. Read, all hustle and bustle, struck five fours and scampered many more singles on his way to another impressive 38 not out, Clarke blasted 27 off 16 balls as the two youngsters gave the crowd a taste of what they can expect in the one-day series next week. When Clarke fell lbw to Haq, Trescothick reassured Englandís supporters and management about his fitness for the one-dayers by coming out for just 1 ball before the close.
467 ahead and two days remaining, it was no surprise when Vaughan declared at the overnight total. There was plenty of time for Bangladesh to achieve their target, but no-one seriously expected them to, least of all themselves. There may have been whole series in which Bangladesh havenít scored 468 in aggregate, never mind in one innings. What most people expected was what actually happened, a total collapse by a side who knew that this match was already lost. Another four wickets for Johnson, all from short-pitched deliveries, another five catches for the excellent Read, the airborne leg-side effort off Johnson which claimed the opening wicket of Hannan Sarkar perhaps the best of them.
Poor Bangladesh simply seemed unprepared for the scale of their task and the short-pitched attack they were facing. One struggles to imagine what might have happened had they been facing the extra pace of Harmison on this pitch. Those who didnít perish fending off close to the wicket fell quickly all the same, Alok Kapali, holing out to Saggers at fine leg off Johnson, Habibul Bashar beaten by a superb throw from the deep square-leg boundary by the same fielder. Only captain Khaled Mahmud, his position under threat, managed any kind of sustained resistance, fighting off a fearsome bouncer assault for almost an hour before Johnson finally got him. The innings slid away as if before a deluge of floodwater and, with the injured Mortaza unable to take the field, it was all over well before tea.
Soon, England will come up against stiffer opposition in Sri Lanka. Soon, Richard Johnson, fitness permitting, will play in a Test match without taking a hatful of wickets and claiming the man of the match award. How soon Bangladesh will win their first Test Match is a much more difficult question to answer. They have made progress under Dav Whatmore, but the problems they face go deeper than anything a talented coach can address. The basic lack of technique in their batting, the lack of penetration in their bowling are weaknesses for which it is hard to envisage any real short-term solution. In the likely absence of Mashrafe Mortaza, they will fall back increasingly upon the competent spin of Mohammad Rafique and Enamul Haq over the next few months. Away from their home turf, this is unlikely to buy them many Test wickets.
England 326 (Hussain 76, Trescothick 60, Clarke 55, Vaughan 54, Mortaza 4-60) & 293-5 dec. (Hussain 95, Thorpe 54)
Bangladesh 152 (Johnson 5-49) & 138 (Johnson 4-44)
England won by 329 runs
England won series 2-0
Man of the Match
Man of the Series