Iqbal century holds up England's progress
Close Bangladesh A 242 (Iqbal 118) v England
One for the future: Nafees Iqbal cuts one of his 14 boundaries
The last time England ventured north to the BKSP sports academy, it was to take shelter from the torrential rains and get some much-needed batting practice in Bangladesh's only indoor nets facility. Today, however, the absolute opposite applied - it was their bowlers who were given the once-over, on one of the hottest days of the tour so far. After winning a good toss, Bangladesh A progressed to 242 all out, with their final wicket falling in the penultimate over of the day.
As was the case earlier in the week, England's opposition consisted of eight members of the U19 squad, and the main cause of England's toiling was the newly appointed U19 captain, Nafees Iqbal. He opened the innings and survived the loss of two early wickets to crack a wonderful 118 from 168 balls, with 14 fours and a flogged six over Gareth Batty's head.
England will be relieved to hear that Nafees won't be available for the Test series - he is about to lead his side on a tour of Pakistan. But today's captain, Rajin Saleh, is one man who will definitely be there. He impressed in the recent Test series against Pakistan, and had batted defiantly for a valuable 28 - adding 103 for the third wicket - until Richard Johnson won an appeal for caught-behind, much to Saleh's disappointment (148 for 4). Rikki Clarke then ran out Nazimuddin with a direct hit from backward point, but Nafees ground on.
It was only when he was nearing his century that Nafees allowed his youthful ebullience to get the better of him. He brought up his hundred with a heart-in-the-mouth slap that flew just out of the reach of Michael Vaughan at cover, and he immediately followed up with two more wild fours to complete the over.
With free entry offered to the local population, Nafees's antics had induced a carnival atmosphere around the packed grass banks, and when play was held up by the introduction of a stray black-and-white pye dog, the ensuing slapstick brought about the heartiest cheers of the day. Nafees seemed emboldened by the fuss, and clubbed another four and that six off Batty. But before the over was up, he had holed out to Graham Thorpe on the long-on boundary (175 for 5).
The local crowd look on
The Bangladeshis have heightened expectations these days, as had been demonstrated earlier in the day by the reaction of the dressing-room to Nafees's fifty. None of them moved a muscle, which was a deliberate motivational ploy according to their new Australian coach, Richard McInnes. And despite a hugely impressive innings, the manner of his dismissal will not have won him many claps from his new taskmaster, either.
Sure enough, England worked their way back into control, as Fahim Muntasir and Saghir Hossain both fell for the addition of four runs (179 for 7). But that was not the end of the day's resistance. Mosadek Hossain batted with great watchfulness for his 21, until he was trapped lbw by Paul Collingwood's first ball of the day, and Arafat Sunny coaxed the tail to a useful total with 25 from 113 balls.
Despite his success, Collingwood was limited to just four overs, and was not introduced until the 78th over. He had been a late replacement for Mark Butcher, (who was forced to withdraw with a throat infection), and is not expected to feature in the Tests. It was left to Richard Johnson and Steve Harmison to wrap up proceedings with the new ball, with seven balls remaining. Harmison, who had struck twice in his third over of the day had Sunny snared at short-leg by Nasser Hussain, before Alamgir Kabir edged a simple chance to Chris Read behind the stumps.
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo. He will be accompanying England throughout their travels in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.