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June 5, 2010
England finished an incredible second day at Old Trafford in a commanding position, and could yet enforce the follow-on on Sunday morning after bundling Bangladesh out for 216, a deficit of 203. But not for the first time this summer, and presumably not for the last either, they discovered that their once meek opponents have developed a punch that can leave even the most Tyson-esque heavyweights stunned. That wallop's name is Tamim Iqbal, and for the second time in consecutive innings he produced an innings of rare audacity that swiped the headlines and stole the hearts of even the most partisan England supporters.
Tamim made 108 from 114 balls, with 11 fours and a straight six off Graeme Swann, to file away alongside his 100-ball 103 at Lord's last week. It was his sixth score of fifty or more in seven Test innings against England, and his third hundred in five internationals against them, after he announced himself to their bowlers with a wonderful 125 in the first ODI in Dhaka three months ago. And in keeping with each and every one of his performances to date, England were clueless against his onslaughts, and relied eventually on the hurricane blowing itself out, as it did in the 34th over of the innings with a anticlimactic snick to the keeper off James Anderson.
With Tamim, however, went Bangladesh's momentum and much of their spirit. No doubt it will return at an unexpected moment later in the game, but having hurtled along to 126 without loss while the doughty Imrul Kayes was at the crease, to lose 10 for 90 by the close was a dereliction of duty. Nevertheless with Swann rediscovering his form after a barren first Test (and another frustrating first spell prior to a switch to the Stretford End), and Ajmal Shahzad ripping through the lower-order in an exciting late spell of reverse-swing bowling, England did at least earn their overnight advantage with some pizzazz of their own.
All the same, it was hard to overlook the rise and rise of Tamim, who has now - in a measure of his own brilliance and the shortcomings of his team-mates - leapt into second-place on the list of Bangladesh all-time Test centurions, ahead of Habibul Bashar on three, and just behind Mohammad Ashraful, who never looked like adding to his current tally of five as he chopped a loose cut to gully to give Shahzad the first of his three scalps.
England's bowlers treated Tamim with caution from the very start of his innings, which is ironic seeing as he displayed next to none in return. With concerns about his prowess on the cut and pull, Anderson opted to cramp him for room from around the wicket, but the only real effect was to rule out the prospect of an early lbw. Steven Finn's extra height was of little concern either, and with Kayes all but strokeless alongside him, it wasn't until he reached the nervous nineties that Tamim ditched the see-ball-hit-ball method that had served him so well and resorted to out-and-out madness.
At Lord's last week, Tamim hurtled through the nineties in a single over against Tim Bresnan, and now it was clear to see why. With a series of ugly heaves and swats, he betrayed his nerves in a manner that Kevin Pietersen has tended to do in the past, and had he not under-edged a mow at Swann through fine leg, he might well have been stumped for 95. Instead, one ball later, he toe-ended a gleeful cut through point for four, and punched the air in triumph once again.
But slowly but surely, England overcame their reticence and responded with a furious volley of blows that, by the close, had left Bangladesh backed onto the ropes and awaiting their fate. The key to the turnaround was Swann, who claimed all five of his wickets in a 12-over spell following a frustrated first foray from the Brian Statham End, in which he failed to locate either the length or the right pace to trouble Bangladesh's batsmen, and was looking like being shown up by his Bangladeshi opposite number, Shakib Al Hasan, who had himself claimed 5 for 121 to wrap up England's first innings, including one of the balls of the year to dislodge Ian Bell for 128.
Swann's first wicket was that of Junaid Siddique, whom he had tormented from round the wicket and eventually removed via a thin edge to Prior, and he followed up three overs later by bowling Jahurul Islam through the gate for 5, a classic offspinner's dismissal. Tamim then fell with the score still on 169, and from that moment on, the innings was on its knees. Shakib never settled, and thrashed a sharp edge to Anderson at slip, whereupon Shahzad - whose initial foray had been six uneventful overs for 35 - claimed three in three overs to justify his selection and showcase his flat-wicket credentials.
Ashraful was Shahzad's first victim, as he flapped a cut at a zippy outswinger, before Mahmudullah and Shafiul Islam were cleaned up by excellent full-length stump-rattlers. Swann then had Mushfiqur Rahim nicking off to Anderson at slip once again, before bagging the No. 11 Shahadat Hossain for a second-ball duck. As England left the field with their morale restored, Strauss was left to sleep on the follow-on decision. Judging by the state of the wicket, and the Tamim factor, he will probably be tempted to bat on.
None of what transpired could have been predicted while Bell and Matt Prior were adding 153 for England's sixth wicket in a serene morning session, to haul their side from a precarious overnight position of 275 for 5. After their spirited display on the first day, Bangladesh's grip on the contest was being loosened, it seemed, finger by finger. But then, with 15 minutes to go until lunch, Shakib bowled Bell with an absolute beauty that gripped and turned to ping the top of his off stump.
It was a delivery that brought to mind Shane Warne's nailing of Mike Gatting on this same ground 17 years ago. While the turn was nowhere near as prodigious, the ball nevertheless drifted from off to leg before biting the turf and beating a bamboozled outside edge. Shakib's reaction, however, was to stand stock-still and ponder. He doubtless recognised that his own men would have to take on the same conditions before long. Indeed they did, but not before Tamim had made a minefield look like a motorway.
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