The rumours of Bangladesh's improvement are true
Graham Thorpe: vital innings
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Ever since they went to Australia and avoided being slaughtered, rumours have been circulating of an upturn in Bangladesh's fortunes. Today, England discovered just how genuine these rumours are turning out to be.
It is a measure of the challenge that Bangladesh now pose, that England left absolutely nothing to chance in their preparation for this match ... and still they are being forced to scrap for every session. Yesterday, they emerged triumphant in all three, but today the Banglas bit back.
There had been several warnings of Bangladesh's abilities in the warm-up games, not least when England contrived to lose four wickets for no runs against the Board President's side on this very ground. Today's slump was less statistically staggering, but three wickets for three runs in three overs is impressive by anyone's standards. The real contest, however, took place in the afternoon session.
To watch Mohammad Rafique, 34, and Enamul Haq junior, 16 by some accounts, twirling away in unison, was to be reminded just how sparse the English spin-bowling cupboard has become. Dav Whatmore had complained, in his early days as coach, that Bangladesh could not produce spinners worthy of the name. But whereas England have searched high and low to little avail, it seems Bangladesh were simply not looking hard enough. In Enamul, they have unearthed a gem.
Low power: the lights give up
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Enamul's first three overs on Wednesday night were deposited for 23 runs. But today he struck with his sixth delivery, to remove a subdued Marcus Trescothick, and he never looked back. As he and Rafique twirled England into knots after lunch, Graham Thorpe's importance to the team was shown up all too readily. It had been expected that his true test would come against Muttiah Muralitharan later on the tour, but as Enamul spat the ball out of the footholds, Thorpe's awareness of the gaps and fluency of footwork came to England's rescue once again.
Quite what happened to the floodlights at the close is anyone's guess. But the sight of the England team sat in a semi-circle, hoping against hope for a resumption, spoke volumes for how hard they are being pushed in this match. Steve Harmison's late wicket took some of the gloss off Bangladesh's day, but England were not content to call it quits and resume refreshed in the morning. They had scented a long-overdue opening, and were willing to indulge in a little bit of petulance to push their prospects.
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo. He will be accompanying England throughout their travels in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.