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October 31, 2003
Nasser Hussain: 'roused from his torpor by the prospect of cheap runs'
If anyone had suggested, prior to this series, that Bangladesh would suffer just one bad day in eight attempts, the average response would have been pretty derisive. Merely surviving for eight days, after all, is two more than most people had them down for.
But, to their immense credit, that is precisely what Bangladesh have managed. Less creditably, however, today - the eighth - has been a stinker. They started in an invidious position at 93 for 4, soon slumped to a hopeless one, and by the time Nasser Hussain had been roused from his torpor by the prospect of cheap runs, Bangladesh were displaying the sort of body language that Dav Whatmore was rumoured to have banished.
But England themselves know all about such days. In the time it took to lose the Ashes last winter, they managed one impressive day out of 11 (the second day at Adelaide), and still bounced back to win the final Test of the series. So Bangladesh need not dwell on today's performance. It is not a regression, just one of those hiccups that afflict all emerging teams.
After the scare that England suffered at Dhaka, they were always likely to rally strongly at Chittagong - that has been a feature of English performances on the subcontinent in recent years, regardless of the opposition. And in Richard Johnson, they had just the man to exploit an uncannily receptive third-day pitch. His pace, length and accuracy did to Bangladesh what he had done to Zimbabwe at Durham in May, and in doing so, he became the first English bowler since Nick Cook to take five-wicket hauls in his first two Tests.
At Durham, however, Johnson had employed a much fuller length. Here, he was buzzing around the batsmen's midriffs, and with Martin Saggers taking his lead, Bangladesh's tailenders were reduced to their wafty worst - either stepping back to have a mow, or flapping bouncers down fine-leg's throats. It was an ill-disciplined end to the innings, and the worst sort of justification for choosing to bat second.
The wisdom of that particular decision was once again shown up when the spinner Mohammad Rafique was called into the attack in the fourth over of England's second innings. Rafique was Bangladesh's one ray of light throughout the day. He immediately had Michael Vaughan in all manner of trouble, and deservedly added three more big scalps to take over as the leading wicket-taker in the series. We will never know how effective he might have been, had Bangladesh dared to wait, instead of employing him on a greentop in the first innings.
Rafique's efforts did their best to lift his side, but the stuffing had been knocked out of Bangladesh in the afternoon session, when their impressive young strike bowler, Mashrafee Mortoza, collapsed in his followthrough and twisted his knee. It was a grievous blow, but in truth they were already tottering. As England can concur, sometimes it just isn't your day.
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo. He will be accompanying England throughout their travels in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
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