England v Bangladesh, 2nd npower Test, Old Trafford, 1st day June 4, 2010

Shafiul provides more evidence of Bangladesh progress

Bangladesh are providing England with a tougher examination than anyone expected at the start of the season

If Bangladesh cricket is measured on the basic principle of victories and defeats, it makes for depressing results. Instead their progress has to be judged by smaller success; individual hundreds, career-bests, five-wicket hauls and pushing the opposition hard. On all those parameters, this series is offering real hope for the future.

Bangladesh are providing England with a tougher examination than anyone expected at the start of the season and after making the hosts toil in the field at Lord's, the bowlers produced a much-improved display to ensure the opening day at Old Trafford was a tight contest. In all probability this Test will still finish as another hefty defeat, but that doesn't have to mean all is lost.

At Lord's it was the efforts of Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique and, to a lesser extent, Shahadat Hossain which meant the 'positives' that sportsmen so often talk about were tangible. However, the visitors' performance with the ball on the opening day at Lord's drove their coach, Jamie Siddons, to distraction - "I was ready to get on a plane," he said before this match - and he may have had a familiar sense of foreboding as Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook eased to 44 without loss in 11 overs.

This time, though, there was a significant difference. Even though Shahadat was spraying the ball during a disappointing first spell, at the other end Shafiul Islam was making the batsmen work for their rewards. At no point at Lord's was there ever really any control from the attack, as Rubel Hossain and Robiul Islam looked barely first-class, but Shafiul's inclusion changed that.

He isn't a superstar - a Test bowling average of 68 is stratospheric for the wrong reasons - but he has at least mastered a few basics in line and length. The lack of pace bowlers coming out of Bangladesh will continue to hold back their development, yet while finding someone to bowl 90mph isn't proving possible, they should at least be able to produce bowlers that are less than cannon fodder. Shafiul showed it can be done.

He looked a decent prospect when England toured Bangladesh earlier this year, although suffered in the face of an onslaught from Eoin Morgan as his hundred snatched England's victory in the second ODI in Dhaka. Better bowlers have felt Morgan's force. What brought success here was a nagging line around off stump which tempted Strauss into a loose prod before he conjured a fine off-cutter to send Jonathan Trott on his way. His first spell ended with the impressive figures of 9-2-18-2.

"I just bowled a few outswingers, then tried one the other way," he said modestly about Trott's dismissal. "I wasn't disappointed to miss out at Lord's, the selectors picked what they thought was the best team."

Sadly his participation in the remainder of the day was limited to a further five overs after he was struck by cramp. However, his absence didn't mean that England's progress was serene. Far from it, really, on a pitch that offered Bangladesh's three spinners considerable encouragement.

"The wicket has taken us a little bit by surprise - the amount of turn on day one - and conditions were a little more helpful for them than we thought they might be," Ian Bell said. "It was a tricky day, they made us work very hard."

Shakib Al Hasan bowled far better than his figures suggest and regularly beat the outside edge of the right-handers with deliveries that grip, spun and, crucially, bounced. Turn is only one element for a spinner; without the bounce they become far less of a threat, as was discovered in Dhaka and Chittagong back in March. If Mushfiqur Rahim had got glove instead of knee on an edge from Bell when he'd made 36 England's innings could have looked very different, while Matt Prior survived a close lbw shot against Abdur Razzak.

"I though Shakib bowled fantastically well," Bell said. "Not every ball spun which made it harder, with the odd one skidding on it was hard work. With ring fields it's hard to keep the run-rate up. It made us graft a bit harder when there wasn't pace on the ball."

"Credit to Bangladesh again, they made us work hard as they did at Lord's," he added. "In the four Tests we've had recently they haven't been the pushover people expected, especially in England, and we've had to work hard for the positions we are in."

For Bangladesh, that can be classed as progress.

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo