Flintoff fixes it for England ... again
England 137 for 3 (Vaughan 37*, Flintoff 70*) beat Bangladesh 134 for 9 (Rajin Saleh 32, Johnson 3-22) by 7 wickets
Too hot to handle: Man of the Match Andrew Flintoff launches one of his four sixes
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England wrapped up an ultimately simple victory at the Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka, winning by seven wickets with 22.3 overs to spare after restricting Bangladesh to an inadequate 134 for 9. England thus took the short series 2-0. It could have been much worse: Bangladesh initially slumped to 7 for 4, and later on were 80 for 8 before the tailenders gave themselves something to bowl at. England lost three quick wickets as the ball zipped around under the floodlights, but then Andrew Flintoff came in and stopped the rot again.
Entering after Paul Collingwood missed a big pull at Tapash Baisya and was bowled (37 for 3), Flintoff flicked his first ball behind square for four, eased his fourth through the covers for another, and smashed his seventh ball, off Mushfiqur Rahman, over long-on for six. He never looked back, depositing Rafique for two more sixes with effortless flicks that cleared the ropes at midwicket and wide long-on. The second one brought up his half-century, from only 37 balls, and he finished with 70 not out from 47 balls, with nine fours as well as those four sixes. For the second match running there was little argument over the destiny of the Man of the Match award, even if this time Flintoff was too unwell to collect it personally.
Flintoff and Michael Vaughan, who dropped anchor at the other end after those early alarms, put on a round 100 for the fourth wicket. Vaughan survived a couple of close lbw shouts early on, but then played sensibly to shepherd his side home, and finished with a circumspect 37 from 69 balls.
In many ways the match was a carbon copy of the first one, at Chittagong three days previously. Bangladesh's top order struggled, but the tail gave the total some respectability: England lost three quick wickets, then Flintoff and a quieter partner finished things off quickly. There was one letoff for Flintoff this time, though. In the 20th over, he skyed Rahman to mid-off, where Moniruzzaman dropped a simple catch to complete a miserable debut - earlier he had departed for a duck after being called up as a surprise replacement for Bangladesh's senior batsman, Habibul Bashar.
James Anderson celebrates dismissing Moniruzzaman, Bangladesh's new No. 3
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Bangladesh's batting, meanwhile, continues to disappoint hugely. England adopted a simple policy - bowl fast, short, and wide of off stump, and the early batsmen followed the ball like lemmings, giving catches as if at pre-match practice. There is an argument that the only way Bangladesh will improve is by exposure to top-flight cricket, but that one is beginning to wear thin. Their shot-selection today gave no indication that they had learnt anything at all in recent months.
The game was as good as over before many of the large and vociferous crowd had taken their seats, as Bangladesh slumped to 7 for 4 inside nine overs. James Anderson and Richard Johnson feasted like foxes let loose in a chicken coop. With the first ball of Anderson's second over Hannan Sarkar aimed an expansive slashed drive, and Collingwood in the covers took a good head-high catch (3 for 1). With the first ball of his third, Anderson bowled short of a length, outside off, Moniruzzaman offered a nondescript jab, and Chris Read held a straightforward catch (3 for 2).
Johnson then got in on the act, thanks to yet another poor shot. The ball was again short and wide, Nafis Iqbal tried to hit the cover off it, and a delighted Read held the thin edge. Iqbal had made 4 - all the runs Bangladesh had scored off the bat at the time - and then Alok Kapali's feeble waft gave Read his third catch (7 for 4). The crowd, a sea of flagwaving support at the start, began to make their displeasure known.
Rahman and Rajin Saleh then steadied the ship with a fifth-wicket stand of 57, made from 20 overs, but it was pedestrian stuff. Khaled Mahmud, Bangladesh's hapless captain (who had won the toss and batted, as he did at Chittagong), cut a lonely figure. He batted like a man without a clue, and was twice leg-before to Ashley Giles. The umpire let him off the first time - not that leaving him in the middle was an act of mercy - but he had to go shortly afterwards. Mahmud sloped off, with the derision of the spectators ringing in his ears (69 for 6).
A spot of swatting from Rafique, who slapped four fours in his 27 not out, helped Bangladesh put on 54 for their last two wickets - but it was never going to be remotely enough.
Steven Lynch is editor of Wisden Cricinfo.