Pietersen and Ashraful fail again
Bangladesh A 202 (Raqibul 107* Tredwell 6-95) and 362 for 5 dec (Shuvo 91*, Dollar 66*) drew with England XI 281 for 7 dec (Trott 101) and 185 for 5 (Cook 43) by 158 runs
An extraordinary barrage of declaration slogging from Shuvo Chowdhury and Dollar Mahmud enlivened the final day of England's warm-up match against Bangladesh A, but it was the ongoing poor form of the two highest-profile players on either team that captured the headlines as the contest drifted to a draw at Chittagong.
By the time the players shook hands at 3.30pm, England had reached 185 for 5 in their final innings, having given time in the middle to some of their likely Test starters, but the focus had shifted firmly from the present to the first Test in three days' time. Bangladesh will go into that contest without the services of their most-capped player, Mohammad Ashraful, whose omission from the squad was confirmed soon after he had been bowled by Ajmal Shahzad for 30 in his final innings this morning.
England, meanwhile, will be relying on Kevin Pietersen recapturing his big-game mentality after yet another failure that takes his tally in all matches in Bangladesh to 69 runs in seven innings. True to current form, he was greeted with his nemesis style of bowling, left-arm spin, the very moment he came to the crease at the fall of Michael Carberry for 35, and though he showed glimpses of form with a brace of fours and a big six down the ground, he had made only 20 when he missed a sweep against the right-arm spinner, Ashraful.
Pietersen's place for the Chittagong Test is not in any real doubt, but the same cannot be said of Carberry, who had his chance to push for the opener's berth vacated by Andrew Strauss, but left the jury hanging with 35 from 28 balls, an innings containing six classy fours, but numerous chancy leaves. He too was dismissed by Ashraful, as he propped forward to a good-length delivery, and squirted a regulation chance to short leg.
Tim Bresnan's appearance at No. 4 was a significant hint as to England's likely planning for the Test series, and after impressing with the ball, he did his prospects no harm by batting calmly for 36, largely in partnership with his captain, Alastair Cook, who retired at tea with 43 to his name.
And with James Tredwell likely to partner Graeme Swann as the second spinner, he too was given a chance to put bat on ball, reaching 11 from 28 balls before being bowled by a big legbreak from Noor Hossain, as Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott batted through to the close with no alarms.
One of the most intriguing performances of the day was that of Steven Finn. Having picked up two wickets in a lively first spell in England colours on Sunday, he was given the ball first-up this morning, in tandem with Bresnan, and produced a superb spell to end the resistance of the outstanding batsman over the three days, Raqibul Hasan. With a century from the first innings and 50 not out overnight, Raqibul was beaten twice in an over on 51, before Finn tightened his line to detonate the off stump.
Ashraful's subsequent failure, bowled by a scuttler from Shahzad, effectively ended the competitive interest in the Bangladesh innings, but what followed was extraordinary. With Cook seeking to coax a declaration out of his opponents, he brought himself and Carberry on for a nine-over spell of buffet bowling that yielded an incredible 189 runs, with Cook conceding 111 of those himself.
By lunch, the policy had enabled Sagir Hossain to race to 51 from 45 balls before retiring (presumably in disgust), while Shuvo (who happened to be batting with a runner) thwacked away with impunity for 91 from 30 balls, alongside Dollar, whose 17-ball 66 contained six sixes and just two dot-balls.
It was the final confirmation, if any were needed, that the first-class status with which this match had begun had long since vanished, although by conceding a lead so sizeable that the scorers could not keep up, England did at least give themselves a nominal target to keep things interesting in the final session.
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.