England v Bangladesh, 1st Test, Chittagong, 3rd day March 14, 2010

Plucky Bangladesh survive to fight another day

If Tests were played like Grand Slam tennis matches, with each day equating to a set, then England would currently be leading 2-1 at Chittagong

If Tests were played like Grand Slam tennis matches, with each day equating to a set, then England would currently be leading 2-1 at Chittagong - 6-0, 6-1, 5-7 - but with Bangladesh having shown sufficient tenacity to scrap their way back into the contest, and give themselves a slim hope of taking the game to a decider.

Unfortunately for Tamim Iqbal and his colleagues, not to mention the neutral spectators who have probably now drifted off to watch the IPL, this game is surely already out of sight, despite their best day of the tour so far. In a peculiar sequence of misguided strategies, England started by giving Bangladesh's bowlers too much respect by packing their side with batsmen, only for Bangladesh themselves to baulk at the compliment by fielding first and gift-wrapping a 600-run handicap.

The net result has been a slow bleeding of Bangladesh's resistance in this contest, rather than the swift neck-crack that might have been administered in the past - and while that still counts as progress of a sort, it rather undermines the true value of their spirited fightback on a sappingly humid third day.

Their gutsy lower-order batting, coupled with a sparky effort second-time around in the field, could yet be sufficient to give them a get-out, despite the fact that they were still restricted to less than half of their opponent's first-innings total. But from the manner in which wickets began to tumble on a livelier-than-anticipated third-innings surface, survival will be a stern challenge, especially against a bowler as guileful as Graeme Swann.

"We're 430 ahead after three days and you can't argue with that," said Swann. "Yes, we lost a couple of wickets at the end which isn't ideal, but with two days to play I think we're in the box seat. We picked the best possible team to win this game, and I've got no qualms because we're in a magnificent position."

In truth, England picked a team to guard against embarrassment, and their subsequent strategy has been tweaked accordingly. The absence of a fifth bowler made Alastair Cook's refusal of the follow-on inevitable, no matter how negative it might appear to the outside world. With just three frontline pacemen, one of whom is on debut and another of whom was an injury doubt coming into the match, going for broke was never going to be countenanced. There's a time and a place for big statements - the here and now is simply about getting a job done.

"The follow-on was discussed but we felt this was the best way to win the game," said Swann. "From the one-dayers we played beforehand, Bangladesh showed they've got some capable batsmen and some capable bowlers, so it's no surprise they are putting up a fight. We'll have to perform well in the second innings to win.

"The pitch is excellent, but we knew it would be good," he added. "You have to work hard after the ball goes dead, and if a guy gets in you have to work hard to get rid of them. But we've got a bit of reverse-swing going and there's always a little bit of turn, with the odd one hitting a crack and going a bit more, so we're confident."

All the same, by laying claim to the third-day honours, Bangladesh ensured that their confidence is as high as it has been all week - and given that they started the game in disarray following the walk-out of Raqibul Hasan, the recovery, no matter how partial, is a testament to their collective determination.

"At the moment it is difficult for us, but I think the match has not ended yet," said Tamim, whose superb 86 was ended by the ball of the match from Tim Bresnan. "I think they are eyeing a lead close to 500 runs, but we scored more than 400 in the fourth innings in a Test match against Sri Lanka in Dhaka, so who knows? You cannot predict in cricket what will happen in a game. If two or three of us can play a big innings, only Allah can say what will happen."

Once Tamim had departed, the cause was taken up by his diminutive team-mate, Mushfiqur Rahim, whose fighting 79 allowed Bangladesh to all but double their overnight 154 for 5. Despite looking like a schoolboy he batted like a man, dancing at the crease to keep both spin and seam at bay, before finally succumbing to a stunning take at short midwicket from the substitute fielder, James Tredwell.

"Short blokes are quite tricky to bowl at," said Swann. "When a chap is knee-high to a grasshopper it's quite hard to get your length right, but he batted really well. It's always nice to have a big guy lunging down the wicket giving you easy bat-pad chances, but I thought Bangladesh batted really well today, in the hour before and the hour after lunch. We'll have our work cut out to bowl them out in the second innings."

"It will be difficult, but not impossible," said Tamim. "We've got some good players, and everyone is capable of making big scores, so if two or three play big innings everything is possible. We are now mentally strong, and we all know we have to perform well in the next innings."

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.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • V.L on March 15, 2010, 9:07 GMT

    So much for praising Bangladesh. They are already staring yet another huge defeat. I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel for Bangladesh. Not in near future. They make the same stupid mistakes over and over again. Do you remember when was the last time Bangladesh has won a test match against a major test playing nation or for that matter even saved it?

  • Bang on March 15, 2010, 2:52 GMT

    What? Called him schoolboy, Andrew? wait, he will chase you with bat!

  • Khondkar on March 15, 2010, 2:44 GMT

    Mr Thomas Cherian do not be so complacent. This England team in Dhaka test may fight for survival . Have they batted well in the second innings? If Saquib would have opted to bat and Bangladesh could post about 350+ there could be altogther a different story. This England team will be puverished to Pulp by Australia in Ashes I can guarantee. Chittagong test is not over yet.

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2010, 1:16 GMT

    Faisal and Bottoms.....how many spectators where there for India and bangladesh games...or the current English games. Even a ludicrous game like IPL has over shadowed the series with more people watching Shah rukh khans team. Test Cricket has always been for a privileged few...the interest in SA,India, England and Aussies games will never be replaced or replicated with Bangladesh. Pakistan has issues but dont compare Bangladesh team to that, it is ludicrous. I still believe Sehwag is right...guys like Murali have bucket load of wickets because of Bangladesh

  • Luke on March 15, 2010, 0:04 GMT

    I don't understand the arrogance in denouncing Bangladesh. England won the Ashes don't forget and it's clear Bangladesh have some great batsmen and quality spin. Cricket needs countries like Bangladesh and their improvement justifies their status as a test side. Bowling first was a rediculous mistake but this happens. occasionally. The best they thing they can do is aim to bat for a day and a half and make England win the game rather than hand it over on a platter. With Sri Lanka playing next to no tests at all these days, WI experiencing a period of misery and Pakistan doing what it always does, how could test cricket survive on the backs of India, South Africa, England and Australia? We'd all get bored if they just kept playing each other.

  • Dummy4 on March 14, 2010, 23:45 GMT

    well, I don't think Thomas Cherian watching cricket for long time. was was time when Bangladesh never able put fight on a match, there was time when Bangladesh started to put fight in some matches, after that, now they are "coming back" in every match. Now They are at the edge to put fight on every match. this is how cricket history goes for every country. if you don't let a baby to stand up on his feet, he will never run.

  • Dummy4 on March 14, 2010, 21:01 GMT

    Problem is Bangladesh should not be playing test cricket. I seriously think all scores against them should be discounted bringing lot of modern cricketers average from sky high to ground....

  • Benjer on March 14, 2010, 18:51 GMT

    Now Bangladesh can do only one things in this match which is looking for the draw.As england already in driving seat & they already taken huse lead so pls don't do the mistake to chase like the last test match against India.Pls Show something positive circket & close England as soon as possible & set mind for draw the test match,don't play loose shot which you all are palying regularly.Go ahed Bangladesh.Aftab should be play at no.6/7 that is better.

  • Dummy4 on March 14, 2010, 16:14 GMT

    The problem for Bangladesh is....Bangladesh Plays Football in Cricket.They follow 3-4-3 formation in getting out. First 3 wickets fall together, then 4... then 3 together at the end. In the middle they score some runs.. Btw, I am a Bangladeshi supporter :D

  • Shamim on March 14, 2010, 16:06 GMT

    Quite a come back for Bangladesh. This is a much improved team than the one that played in England in 2005, albeit a much stronger English team. But time is on the side of Bangladesh and so far they have progressed well. Yet they still have some years to go. As Jamie Siddon commented, this is a still very young team. Yes, Bangladesh will lose more games but each time they need to learn from the mistakes they make. Bangladeshi batsmen need to communicate and not have stupid run outs. They need to learn how to handle different bowling situations, like the bouncers that sent Junaid and Kamrul to the pavilion. And finally they need to get stronger and develop some fast pace bowlers.

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