Bangladesh prove to be worthy of Test cricket
|Tamim Iqbal's savage century at Lord's highlights just how much Bangladesh cricket has improved © Getty Images|
I enjoyed the Lord's Test more than I was expecting to. Even if when Bangladesh fielded, it was the predictable routine of the class side treating the hopefuls with something approaching disdain, when they were batting we watched real competition quite worthy of the designation “Test cricket”.
Shahadat Hossain was the first Bangladeshi ever to get his name on the Lord's honours board, which is certainly a huge achievement. That he picked up his five-for largely through the generosity of careless batsmen or, in the case of Alastair Cook's dismissal, a careless umpire does not take away from its significance in Bangladesh cricket history. It was a reward for persistence and being the bowler who looked least out of place: he looked like a county bowler finding the step up difficult while the others looked like local amateurs volunteering to give net practice.
Tamim Iqbal, the other Bangladeshi to get his name on the boards, however, got there by playing one of the most dazzling innings ever seen in a Test on the old ground. On the one day of the match when the sun shone brightly, Tamim produced an innings which beautifully matched the weather. There have certainly been bigger Test hundreds scored at Lord's, and at least one was scored quicker - Mohammed Azharuddin's century in 1990 came off fewer balls, and it is possible that Percy Sherwell's in 1907 did too in the absence of a reliable count of balls faced for matches back in his era - but I doubt that any have been played so joyously. So carefree looked his batting that he could have been having a casual thrash with his mates on a tipsy Sunday afternoon a couple of hundred yards away in Regent's Park rather than opening the batting for his country in a Lord's Test.
Not that it was stupid or mindless: as he said afterwards, his main aim was to hit the ball where the fielders weren't and he largely succeeded in fulfilling his plan - such as it was. Slip fielders placed traditionally for the opening overs are largely redundant since he is not a great driver and hardly ever edges behind, and he hits it so hard that even those he does edge usually go way over the head of any pertinent fielder in a close catching position, which means there are usually acres of space for him to send the ball towards. It is by no means as risky as it looks to the conventional eye.
Test captains and new-ball bowlers still treat this type of opening assault as an offence against nature: it is so far away from what is “supposed” to happen that they usually flounder in response. The bowlers get angrier and more frustrated and the captain has to cope with trying to set a field which might have some people in the right places while making allowances for bowlers bowling less reliably. For someone like Strauss, it is obviously a nightmare. But with the likes of Chris Gayle and Virender Sehwag as well as Tamim on the circuit, it behoves captains, coaches and think tanks to devote some serious attention to finding a method to contain these explosions.
Supporting Tamim, Imrul Kayes finally managed his maiden half-century and Junaid Siddique showed the solidity which had started to become evident when England visited Bangladesh earlier in the year. Taken overall, the Tigers' batsmen fully justified their Test status. Even tittering about or being embarrased by Bangladesh's bowling, the Lord's Test was no more or less of a mismatch than Nasser Hussain's youthful England side taking on Australia in the 2002-03 Ashes. Bangladesh weren't able to draw, let alone have a chance of winning, but this performance in overseas conditions shows that they have truly graduated.