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Ajmal Shahzad's reverse-swing antics have justified his inclusion ahead of Ryan Sidebottom
June 5, 2010
One of England's stated aims for this series has been to expand their squad depth in order to find out about a few of their fringe players. With a busy year in store, Andy Flower wants to be able to select from outside his first XI without weakening the team, which is one of the reasons why they've taken the opportunity to give Paul Collingwood and Stuart Broad a rare break. However, there have been a few occasions, usually with Tamim Iqbal at the crease, when Flower may have had second thoughts.
Bangladesh were cruising along at five an over while Tamim and his sidekick Imrul Kayes were adding 126 for the first wicket, and suddenly England's 419 seemed far less imposing than it had done. Yet by the close the hosts were in a position to enforce the follow-on, although they are unlikely to take that route on a surface that will be even tougher to bat on come the fourth innings.
Regardless of opposition or conditions, taking 10 wickets in a session is a notable achievement and Graeme Swann, who claimed five of them, couldn't remember it happening before in his career. It was never really a doubt that hyper-confident Swann would relocate the mojo that went AWOL for a few days during his wicketless outing at Lord's. Of greater interest was the late effort of Ajmal Shahzad, who found devastating reverse swing at a nippy pace to cut through the lower order.
He has shown encouraging signs early in his England career and it confirms the importance of blooding him at this level, in preference to the tried-and-tested Ryan Sidebottom. Having seen the value of Finn's bounce at Lord's, they now know what Shahzad can do when given an older ball, and he blossomed after moving on from a nervous opening spell of six overs.
He also seems to be fitting in well with Team England. "I thought I had a lot of enthusiasm before I meat Shaz," Swann said. "The politest way to say it is he's a loon. We were playing Top Trumps and I've never seen a man so excited at getting his Maserati card come round.
"He's like a big kid and he's enjoying every moment. He had nerves and I know what it's like before your first ball in Test cricket, you are like a jelly. He got his first spell out of the way and when we came back with the ball swinging he showed what he can do. I thought he was exceptional. He bowled fast and straight and even though it was at the lower order he did a fantastic job at mopping them up."
England have a habit of producing sessions in which they burst through the opposition in unexpected style. Old Trafford 2010 won't go down in folklore like The Oval or Durban in 2009 - and is unlikely to force the football World Cup off the back pages - but it was a spectacular turnaround after Tamim's second special innings.
The dramatic change of events came after tea, when England had sat down with their new bowling coach, David Saker, having been given something of a run-around. On one hand it's a worry that the initial plans went so awry, but on the other it's another feather in Saker's cap for his part in the turnaround. He played a significant role in the Twenty20 triumph and is looking a shrewd acquisition.
"At tea time things weren't great for us, but we have come to expect that from Bangladesh, and we regrouped at tea. We had a discussion with the bowling coach and came up with a plan that worked perfectly," said Swann. "We've seen over the last four consecutive Test matches that Tamim's a very destructive player and he was hitting it very sweetly. You always think you will have a chance sooner or later and it's very important you take it."
Swann followed Shakib Al Hasan by finding sharp turn allied with helpful bounce to banish the memories of his blank Test from Lord's. When England manage to induce panic in the ranks of their opponents, Swann is generally to be found at the centre of the action. After Finn had made an opening by removing Kayes, Swann finally collected his first wicket of the series when he removed Junaid Siddique.
"It's a relief to get your first wicket of the summer," he said. "To be honest at Lord's I'd rather have had a hole in the head than bowl on that. It wasn't an enjoyable 30 overs. When you drive home you think you have been a bit of a charlatan in that game so it's nice to have an impact. Hopefully I can do it again in the second [innings]."
It was also another milestone for England's Player of the Year as he claimed his first five-wicket haul on home soil after his previous six came around the globe from Trinidad to Centurion to Dhaka. "The others have all come away and you cherish them but to get one in England - and the dressing-room attendant has just said 'I have to put your name on the board now' - I'm delighted with that."
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