Bangladesh ponder twin spin option
Jamie Siddons, the Bangladesh coach, is hoping the Old Trafford pitch offers assistance to his spinners, as his team aims to build on their efforts in the first Test and give England another tough five-day contest. Siddons believes a number of the home side's batsmen, including Kevin Pietersen, are susceptible against slow bowlers, but only if the conditions allow them to have an impact.
With warm weather forecast for at least the first three days in Manchester, the indications are that Bangladesh will give serious consideration to including Abdur Razzak, the left-arm spinner, alongside captain Shakib Al Hasan and offspinner Mahmudullah. It didn't escape Siddons' attention that Pietersen was again dismissed by Shakib in the first innings at Lord's, the 16th time he has fallen to a left-arm spinner.
"If it spins, like everyone is talking about, Shakib will worry the England players when it starts to turn. He's very good, as his figures suggest," said Siddons. "If it looks like it will turn, we might even play another spinner, play Razzak and put them under pressure with spin rather than pace, as that had no impact at Lord's.
"If it's faster, spinning and bouncing a bit, Shakib will be a real handful and there's a couple of players in the England side that do struggle against good spin," he added. "We need something, we need spin, that's our strength. Kevin [Pietersen] has been having trouble and hopefully keeps having trouble but he made [runs] in Dhaka which puts it on the other edge of that sword. They have a lot more trouble with spin than they do with our medium-pacers."
History suggests that Siddons could well get his wish. The last Test to be staged at Old Trafford, against New Zealand in 2008, was dominated by Monty Panesar and Daniel Vettori who took 6 for 37 and 5 for 66 respectively. There has also been turn this season for Lancashire's young left-arm spinner, Simon Kerrigan, who has had considerable success and has often been used early in the game.
However, a pitch that aids the spinners would also bring Graeme Swann into the match after a rare wicketless outing at Lord's. "Facing their spinners on the last day at Lord's there was no turn, it just skidded on, but here the spinners normally come into the game quite early because of the bounce, and on days three and four they can be a handful," said Andrew Strauss. "I was fairly happy with the way Graeme bowled, but they played him well and if he bowls like that again I'm sure he'll take some wickets."
It really is spin or bust for Bangladesh because, even taking into account Shahadat Hossain's five-wicket haul last week, their pace resources are thin. Siddons confirmed that there would be a change in the seam-bowling ranks with Shafiul Islam being recalled although it hadn't been decided which of Robiul Islam or Rubel Hossain would drop out - although both would disappear if two spinners played.
"Our bowling was horrendous," said Siddons. "On day one of the [Lord's] Test I was ready to go home. But I'm used to that with our bowlers, our bowlers have let us down a lot, particularly our fast bowlers. Our spin bowlers always bring things back.
"We lost the game on the first day and, again, there was so much pressure on our batsmen to save a game. We just can't keep doing that, that's why we will make a change to the fast bowling. Shafiul will bowl good areas and be consistent, that's what we need. If Shahadat has another game like his first innings, our attack will be a lot better."
Siddons admits that there is no quick fix when it comes to Bangladesh's lack of pace, a problem that stems from the country's insubstantial first-class structure. Sri Lanka is often used as the model of what can be achieved as a Test nation develops, but Bangladesh have never threatened to produce the likes of Chaminda Vaas or Lasith Malinga.
"There's no evidence of fast bowlers," added Siddons. "The two quickest in Bangladesh are Rubel and Shahadat. In our first-class conditions, the bowlers bowl three or four overs and then the spinners come on so there are no grounds for them to develop, which is really important."
Siddons has approached the Bangladesh board about searching the English leagues for hidden fast-bowling talent. "I keep asking if they are around, I'm sure they are," he said. "There have been Bangladeshis here long enough to use England for development programmes and grab a few. I haven't had any names come forward, I've pushed it at board level to get the word out there. We'd definitely look at it, if there is a fast bowler who can come back and play for us immediately."
The batting, though, is coming along nicely for Bangladesh. Many watchers were surprised by Bangladesh's performance at Lord's, but that wasn't the case for Siddons who has seen a steady improvement with the bat, but he remained frustrated that the middle-order couldn't respond.
"Our middle-order has held us together," he said. "I can't understand why they didn't bat better at Lord's although they did always come in against the new ball and in overcast conditions, against a swinging ball, which is tough for any team to make runs and survive in those conditions.
"People are still thinking about 12 months ago, we've had great Test series against India, New Zealand and England. Our batsmen have applied themselves really well. The Aftabs [Ahmed] aren't playing any more, Ashraful is trying to apply himself a a lot. Junaid [Siddique] and Imrul [Kayes] never throw their wicket away, they might play a bad shot but it's not because of rashness."
In the days between the back-to-back Tests, Bangladesh have had a few worries about Tamim Iqbal, their star batsman, who reported a problem with his chest although he is unlikely to miss the match. There is also better news about the left-hander's wrist problem which now doesn't require surgery.
"By all reports he doesn't need an operation unless it gets displaced or he can't bat with the pain, and he batted with the pain no problem in the Test match," said Siddons. "He's just got to get over it mentally. It's healing, it's got a callus around it, it's fine."
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo