Tamim shows both teams the way
An England tour of Bangladesh was always likely to present something of a culture clash, but what took place in the first ODI at Mirpur captured in a nutshell the strengths, the weaknesses and the seemingly irrevocable character flaws of two teams whose records in one-day cricket are distinctly average, but whose problems could scarcely be more polarised.
All the talk in England's build-up to the series was the need to inject some oomph to their top-order and after trials and fails for Jonathan Trott and Joe Denly, among others, today it was Craig Kieswetter's turn to have a crack. All the talk in Bangladesh's build-up, on the other hand, revolved around the need to apply a dose of wisdom to their young and exuberant line-up. And though the 20-year-old Tamim Iqbal stepped up to produce arguably the most mature performance of his life, his colleagues faltered when a formidable total was there for the taking.
Tamim's 125 from 120 balls deserved to be the decisive innings of the night. Instead, that honour went to England's old faithful, Paul Collingwood, a player too long in the tooth to let circumstance unhinge his modus operandi. He chiselled and chivvied to 75 not out from 100 balls, an innings that consisted almost entirely of bottom-handed shovels through midwicket, as calm experience got the better of youthful enterprise - a sadly familiar scenario for Bangladesh's cricketers.
In the absence of an X-factor, England fell back on their traditional strength of crease occupation, and Collingwood's innings followed directly on from that of Alastair Cook, whose accumulatory 64 proved eerily reminiscent of the man he has replaced at the top of team-sheet, Andrew Strauss. Meanwhile, as if to prove that England are more adept at producing tortoises than hares, Kieswetter could have been dismissed twice in his first over of international cricket, before being outscored 4 to 1 by his supposedly plod-along skipper. But at least he's through the first-night nerves.
Unlike England, belting the cover off a cricket ball has never been a problem for Bangladesh. It's been their stock-in-trade ever since Akram Khan bludgeoned them to the 1997 ICC Trophy title, and that stand-and-deliver style has always stood his nephew, Tamim, in fine stead - particularly during that seminal innings at the 2007 World Cup, when, as a 17-year-old in his fifth international outing, he flat-batted Zaheer Khan over long-on for six, en route to ushering India to a humiliating early exit from the tournament.
Jamie Siddons, Bangladesh's coach, said before this match that he wasn't interested in results, merely performances, but with a bit of support, Tamim's effort could so easily have qualified as both. He began with his customary bang, as he walloped eight fours and two sixes in a 32-ball half-century, but then settled back into a holding pattern that might have been planned had it not been demanded, as the boys at the opposite end got giddy at the sight of a seven-runs-per-over scoreline.
All Tamim really needed was a man to hang around while he picked off the bad balls - and there were plenty from an England attack who know how to bowl on the subcontinent, but seemed to have mislaid the notes that Stuart Broad claimed to have taken during their win in Sri Lanka in 2007. Instead, after Imrul Kayes had been cleverly suckered by the slower ball to give England a much-needed breakthrough at 63 for 1 after nine, the middle-order subsided with the sort of naivety that has coloured Bangladesh's cricket for a decade.
Junaid Siddique's second-ball dismissal was soft, while Aftab Ahmed's natural aggression was stymied by a sharp run-out, but the shortcomings of Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim were especially disappointing. Captain and vice-captain both know how to pace an innings - remember, they each made measured fifties after Tamim's onslaught against India - and neither man had any need to panic, with Bangladesh's run-rate steady at five an over going into the doldrum period.
But Shakib aimed a wild swipe at Graeme Swann, and would have been stumped had he not been caught behind, while Mushfiqur belied his reputation as Bangladesh's calmest accumulator by performing a Kevin Pietersen Red Bull run to short cover. And after that, the momentum proved too hard to reclaim. Well though their spinners performed in reply, a sizeable Mirpur crowd began to drain towards the exits long before the end - no doubt in a vain bid to beat the traffic.
Nevertheless, it was a marker of the sort that Bangladesh have never really managed to produce in eight previous ODIs against England, save in the 2005 NatWest Series when Mohammad Ashraful went ballistic at Trent Bridge for a 52-ball 94. That innings, however, was in response to England's unreachable total of 391 for 4. If today's effort proved anything, it is that the gulf is nowhere near as wide as it was on that trip, and that when it comes to powerhitting, England are still searching for the answers that Tamim has in abundance.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo. Go to http://twitter.com/miller_cricket to follow him on Twitter through the England tour of Bangladesh.