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March 19, 2010
Alastair Cook is preparing to stick with the same balance of seven batsmen and four bowlers that carried his side to a comfortable, if somewhat laboured, 181-run victory in the first Test at Chittagong, as he aims to hand the England captaincy back to Andrew Strauss with a 100% record from his first tour in charge.
On the eve of the second Test at Dhaka, England are still weighing up their options and have not ruled out the introduction of a second spinner in James Tredwell to partner their ten-wicket Man of the Match from Chittagong, Graeme Swann.
But in the absence of a genuine allrounder - and Luke Wright has been virtually eliminated from their considerations - the likelihood of calling upon a five-man attack seems slim, especially now that England have a 1-0 lead in the series, and therefore no need to gamble with their selection.
"Historically four bowlers tend to do very well," said Cook. "In an ideal world you'd love to find that fifth bowler who can bat to find the perfect balance, and obviously that's what great allrounders like Jacques Kallis bring to the side, but they are few and far between. There's always a chance this pitch might suit a different attack or it might spin more, so you have to go with whatever side you think will win the game."
England's preparations received a boost when their senior fast bowler, Stuart Broad, reported fit after missing Thursday's practice with a stomach complaint. Assuming he is fully recovered, the only realistic change to the line-up that played at Chittagong would be the introduction of Tredwell at the expense of one of the other two seamers, most probably Steven Finn. However, given the positive impression he made on debut, an unchanged XI is the likelier scenario.
"We'll sit down after a look at the wicket and pick a team to win the game," said Cook. "If we think that two seamers and two spinners is the best way to go, then we will do that, even though it is very un-English. We are used to playing in English conditions where it's very unlikely you'd ever to go out with fewer than three seamers. But these are the selection decisions that do come up in the subcontinent, and if we want to do expand our game on turning wickets, we're going to have to get used to it."
Broad's most notable moment in a somewhat lacklustre performance at Chittagong was his failure to address the umpire while appealing for an lbw decision against Abdur Razzak, and with Swann also attracting opprobrium for his four-lettered send-off to Bangladesh's centurion, Junaid Siddique, England's behaviour will be under scrutiny at Dhaka. Cook, however, was unconcerned. "A lot has been made of those two incidents but the umpires haven't reported it, and the match referee hasn't reported it," he said.
"They were probably very close to the mark and Swanny has apologised, but we want to play hard, aggressive cricket and our disciplinary record over the last couple of years has been exceptional," he added. "You want to play close to the edge but if you do go over, you have to hold your hands up."
However, a mean streak will doubtless be essential during England's next overseas Test assignment, which just happens to be the small matter of an Ashes tour in roughly nine months' time, and Cook admitted that some of the team's thoughts and plans were already beginning to be projected towards Brisbane, the scene of that eagerly awaited first Test - especially after the manner in which the team capitulated against South Africa at Johannesburg in January.
"This is our last Test match away before we go to Australia and that has been noted," he said. "We discussed the issue this week about what it means to play for England and wanting to win, and how big it is to win 2-0. We've got jobs to do and responsibilities, and it's all part of our development as a side because in South Africa we didn't really do ourselves justice in that last Test match.
From Cook's own point of view, he is ready to relinquish his stand-in role having become a more rounded and mature player, thanks to his opportunity to take charge of the team in Strauss's absence. "I've got an understanding of what Straussy goes through and what you need from the people around you," he said. "When I go back into the ranks I'll a lot more confident in my thoughts and hopefully help Straussy a lot more.
"The balance of his leadership and my role will hopefully improve. You definitely need an air of confidence from that right-hand man. During the field I'll go and chat to Colly [Paul Collingwood] and his ideas are good, trustworthy ideas. You gain trust as a leader and hopefully I can give more help to Straussy, not just on the pitch but off the pitch as well."
England (probable) 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Michael Carberry, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Ian Bell, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Graeme Swann, 11 Steven Finn.
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.Feeds: Andrew Miller
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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