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England's powerful finale was too good for Bangladesh, but tougher tests await
June 6, 2010
It has taken England four Tests, but on the third afternoon at Old Trafford they found the menace to blow Bangladesh away in the manner that most people believed they should managed from the Chittagong Test onwards. For the second time in two days they claimed 10 wickets in a session, but on this occasion there was no Tamim Iqbal charge to overcome. It was an evisceration from first over to last.
The conditions again played England a helping hand with a muggy, overcast day. The pitch was covered until around midday and it certainly appeared to have quickened up a fraction as James Anderson and Steven Finn bent their backs. The previous evening it was considered a 50-50 call as to whether Andrew Strauss would enforce the follow-on, but this quickly became an occasion to hurry the game along.
"Two crazy sessions to finish the game and it was a nice way to wrap things up," Strauss said. "Generally we did a very professional and efficient job and a lot has come from those two games of cricket as well. We are pretty happy with the way things went but we are also realistic - there are more significant and sterner tests to come for us.
"But it has been really good to have a look at some of the other guys that have come in - the likes of Finny, Ajmal [Shahzad] - they have certainly made a significant impact in this Test match and Eoin Morgan has got a game as well. I think that is encouraging."
It would have been interesting to see what both the captain and the bowlers would have done had the sun been beating down again. Strauss hasn't always been a fan of the follow-on, while the pace attack have been much less threatening without the assistance of the clouds. As Jamie Siddons, the Bangladesh, reiterated: "It doesn't swing and doesn't seam in Australia."
Tamim's assault on the second afternoon - which seemed like an eternity ago after 20 wickets had tumbled in two sessions - did raise further concerns about England's attack and didn't do anything to silence the debate over four or five bowlers. That is likely to rumble on until November 25 in Brisbane and Strauss, while not considering the argument that it would have been better for his attack to try and remove Bangladesh in flatter conditions, admitted there was more room for improvement.
"You never want to make harder work of it than you do, but I think over the two Test matches there were periods when we would have liked to have bowled better," he said. "And there were periods we probably would have liked to have batted better as well. I think that is probably the way of looking at it, rather than at what the opposition did. That is not something we can control particularly."
However, this was still by far England's most clinical display with the ball during their recent head-to-heads with Bangladesh. Anderson began the rout second-ball when he ended Tamim's memorable series with a short ball that was edged to the keeper and Siddons said his opening spell would have troubled any side.
"Anderson's swing would have beaten any left-hander's bat in those first few overs," he said. "His first spell would have got a lot of wickets, [other] batsmen would have been good enough to get bat on them. He tore the heart out of us and he also got his one going the other way which made it very difficult."
Finn, although still not managing to stay on his feet the entire time, bounced out Imrul Kayes for the fourth time in the series and returned to collect his second consecutive five-wicket haul. It secured him the Man-of-the-Series award and, although much sterner tests await, his stock continues to rise to match his considerable height.
"I am not kidding myself," Finn said. "I have taken two five-fors. I was quite fortunate to take five today, I think the other guys bowled fantastically well, especially Ajmal and Jimmy. The pressure they built helped. It is fantastic to take two five-fors in two Tests but by no means am I kidding myself that anything is going to be easier from here on in. It is for me to put in performances and keep trying to do so."
With the promising debut of Shahzad, who claimed the wicket of Shakib Al Hasan to add to his three first-innings scalps, England's collection of pace bowlers continues to be bolstered. Ryan Sidebottom was left out of the XI here and Stuart Broad will return for the one-dayers which begin against Scotland on June 19.
"Long-term you are never going to play the same XI. It is impossible to believe that is going to happen," Strauss said. "You need to have good strength-in-depth in the bowling resources. We always thought Steven and Ajmal had the capability of playing Test cricket. Finny has shown that over the four Test matches he has played. He has got a good future ahead of him.
"Ajmal has taken what we saw in the nets, which we were quite impressed by, out into the middle. He has added his name to that list of guys that are there or thereabouts for selection."
Due to the summer's mangled schedule, England now take a break from Test action until the end of July when they face Pakistan in a four-match series. With bans being lifted on the likes of the former captain, Younis Khan, they will present a much sterner challenge although a batting collapse will never be far away. However, England can't expect to take 20 wickets again in such a rush and by the end of that series they'll need the answers to some pressing Ashes questions.
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