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May 26, 2005
After the events in Istanbul on Wednesday night, let it never again be said that any cause is a lost cause. Sadly for Bangladesh, freak occurrences like Liverpool's Champions League comeback occur once in a hundred lifetimes, and never twice in a week - least of all when the side concerned has absolutely no ghosts of glory with which to haunt the opposition.
The first day of this Test series went absolutely and unwaveringly according to plan - the plan that nature had ordained, that is, rather than any notions of damage-limitation that Bangladesh might have put in place before the start. England were never at their best (in fact, for 12 new-ball overs they actually approached their worst), but the gulf in expectations was grisly and the close-of-play position even more so.
For anyone who has not been aware of the simmering panic surrounding England's early-season batting form, it must have seemed like business as usual as Andrew Strauss and Marcus Trescothick sauntered to their fifth century stand in 13 Tests. Strauss's county season has gleaned 168 runs in 12 innings to date, but today he proved once and for all that, regardless of the standard of the opposition, a Test match is a unique beast that demands a completely different mindset.
Strauss's first fifty of the season was shaping up to be his third century in three Tests at Lord's, until the persevering Mashrafe Mortaza bent one back into Strauss's pads to ruin one of the great statistical joyrides of recent times. He has, in theory, one more innings in which to register a century in his first appearance against four different and consecutive opponents, but somehow you wouldn't bet on him getting another knock here.
Bangladesh might have been outclassed, but they were never overawed by the occasion of a maiden Test match at Lord's, and as Dav Whatmore picks his way through a demoralised mass of bodies this evening, he might care to remind them of this fact. There was energy in the field and exuberance in the attack, particularly when Mashrafe Mortaza was steaming in, but it was their batting, as so often, that made the difference between pride and humiliation. To be bundled out for 108 in 38.2 overs was an act of gross naivety that could only in part be mitigated by inexperience.
A little more deference to the occasion, a little more circumspection in the early exchanges, and Bangladesh might have crept one step closer to achieving their real aim of this tour - to extend one of these Tests into the final day. At this rate, sadly, a two-day finish is the more probable option. They endured some bad luck along the way - losing the toss, losing the nuggetty Khaled Mashud to an unfortunate lbw - but they lost their heads as well, and that was more unforgivable. After 16.5 overs, Bangladesh were motoring along at nearly four runs per over, offering a shot a ball ... and shedding four wickets in the process. Quite literally, they were trying to run before they could walk.
To be fair, England's opening salvo was so poor that Bangladesh could hardly be blamed for cashing in. For all that England would prefer to have been playing Australia in these early-season conditions, they will be thanking their lucky stars that Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer were not around to cash in during those first 12 overs, in which Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison served up 11 no-balls in a salad of short and wide wastefulness. But they produced the sucker punch when Bangladesh's captain, Habibul Bashar, smeared across the line at Hoggard, and the tone of the innings had been set.
Just three Bangladeshis reached double figures, but of these, only two batted with anything approaching the caution that the situation demanded. Aftab Ahmed's 20 came from 14 balls and ended as flashily as it had started, but Javed Omar and the youngster, Mushfiqur Rahim, showed glimpses of what could be achieved with a bit of grit and application. Mushfiqur, the fairytale debutant, played resourcefully late and remained obvious to the crumbling going on around him, until Hoggard extracted him with the ball of the innings. His example is the one that his team-mates must follow - giving their best until they succumb to superior opposition. They have the remainder of the series to make amends.
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