Bell battles to keep England on top
Bangladesh's bowlers followed the example of their batsman at Lord's last week, and rose to the occasion on the first day at Old Trafford with a disciplined and diligent performance, backed up by superb fielding, to deny England the chance to establish the sort of platform from which they were able to boss the first Test. Thanks to Ian Bell, who contributed another timely innings from his fruitful berth in the middle order, England were able to finish the day with their noses in front on 275 for 5, but on a firm and true surface, and in some of the best batting conditions of the summer so far, this was far from the breeze that had been anticipated when Andrew Strauss won the toss.
By the time bad light brought about an early close, Bell was 87 not out from 171 balls, 13 adrift of what would be his third century in six Tests against Bangladesh. Like his 138 at Dhaka back in March, however, this was a vital innings that belied his (admittedly fading) reputation for soft runs, and without it, England could well have been in some trouble. After their floundering performance with the ball at Lord's, Bangladesh had chosen to purge their seam attack, with Robiul Islam and Rubel Hossain both discarded, and into the fray came the impressive Shafiul Islam, who struck twice in an incisive new-ball spell in the first hour of the day, and the left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak, who dismissed Alastair Cook with his first ball of the series, and deserved better rewards than his eventual figures of 1 for 67 from 21 overs.
With the sun on their backs and a more familiar spin-dominant line-up, Bangladesh settled into the sort of rhythm that they had shown during their home series against England, with the added bonus of a wicket that offered the sort of turn and bounce that they'd never see in Dhaka or Chittagong. With Shakib Al Hasan and Razzak bowling in tandem in a fine spell after tea, England were limited to 29 runs in 16 overs before Matt Prior opened the floodgates with a brace of fours off Razzak - one of which could and should have been caught at slip as Junaid Siddique reacted late to a thick edge. On 18, Prior then survived a raucous appeal for lbw that might well have been overturned had the review system been in place for this match. But Prior lived on, to reach 21 not out at the close.
All in all, it was not the sort of scoreline that England had expected, but to Bangladesh's credit, they used their resources cannily, and kept all the batsman guessing as they beat the bat on both sides on a wicket that will doubtless keep Graeme Swann interested when his opportunity comes later in the match. Kevin Pietersen, in particular, discovered this to his cost, as he was stitched up a treat by his nemesis in Tests, Shakib, who claimed his wicket for the fourth time in as many matches, to bring a flamboyant end an entertaining and aggressive innings.
Pietersen's approach in this series has been a far cry from the tentative return to form that he produced in Bangladesh, and after reaching a 73-ball fifty with a series of thumping strikes in the V between long-off and -on, he seemed in a hurry to reach his first hundred against these opponents. Shakib, however, was equal to his ambitions. Moments after being drilled through the covers for four, he held his delivery back a touch through the air, and Pietersen was stumped by six paces as the ball spat past his edge and into the gloves of Mushfiqur Rahim.
Shakib could and should have earned a second wicket in a fine attacking spell, when on 36, Bell edged a good-length turner, only for the ball to rebound unchallenged off Mushfiqur's knee. But that was the only real chance that Bell offered in a disciplined 171-ball innings. Eoin Morgan also offered one opportunity, in the fifth over after tea, but unfortunately for him, his cramped cut at Shahadat picked out Jahurul Islam in the gully, who clung on one-handed with an outstanding dive to his right. After adding 70 for the fifth wicket to revive England from 153 for 4, Morgan was on his way for 37, another half-formed Test innings to add to his Lord's 44.
The principal performer in the morning session had been Shafiul, who was overlooked for the Lord's Test despite showing glimpses of his ability back home during England's recent visit. He pitched the ball up as a default tactic, finding a decent pace in the high 80s to offset a mediocre first spell from the Lord's hero, Shahadatr, and kept the left-handers Strauss and Alastair Cook on their toes by intermittently switching his line from over to round the wicket.
His determination paid off in the 12th over of the day, as Strauss succumbed to an excellent rising delivery that angled across his bows, snicked the edge, and flew hard and fast to Imrul Kayes at second slip. Six balls later, Shafiul added his second, as Trott followed up his double-century at Lord's by falling victim to an excellent bustling delivery that wormed its way off an inside-edge into the top of middle stump. Trott looked stunned at the dismissal, and took his time to react, but he had gone for 3 from five balls, and at 48 for 2, England were in a touch of strife.
Their uncertainty was compounded with 15 minutes of the morning session remaining, when Cook poked injudiciously at Razzak's first delivery and snicked a regulation edge to Junaid Siddique at slip, and Razzak could well have added a second straightway, had Shakib thought to post a short leg to the incoming Bell. By the time he called upon the extra fielder, however, a looping bat-pad opportunity had already been and gone. With Shafiul struggling through thereafter with cramp, Bangladesh's effectiveness was dented in the afternoon session, but their determination was undimmed, and by the close they were very much in the contest.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.