Bangladesh v England, 1st Test, Dhaka, 4th day October 24, 2003

Holding out for a hero

If Nasser Hussain was still captain, he would spend this evening's press conference bemoaning his bowlers' lack of "mystery"
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Habibul Bashar: his innings represented a sea-change in Bangladesh's attitude to Test cricket
© Getty Images


If Nasser Hussain was still captain, he would spend this evening's press conference bemoaning his bowlers' lack of "mystery". And at times on a mystifying day for English cricket, Nasser seemed on a one-man mission to spice up the attack. Fielding under the helmet, he contributed one smart catch and two near run-outs from short-leg, before shifting to a near-suicidal (and surely voluntary) silly gully position, when Stephen Harmison took the new ball.

Perhaps he still feels guilty about the manner of his exit last summer. For it is not Nasser who will have to face the music if this Test goes any less to plan - it is Michael Vaughan, who at The Oval in September must surely have believed that he was over the worst of his teething problems. Not a bit of it. That accolade goes to the Bangladeshis, who have showed their home fans a shiny new set of gnashers, and are sinking them ever deeper into a fragile opposition.

By the close, Bangladesh led by 153 runs with four wickets still standing, and every ounce of certainty had drained from England's body-language. Taken in isolation, the day was no worse than many that England have suffered and surmounted on their three most recent trips to the subcontinent. The heat, the humidity, the unresponsive wicket - they are all familiar factors. But the expectation of victory is a new addition to the broth, and so far it is proving too great a burden.

Bangladesh, on the other hand, are liberated from such demands. All that their loyal supporters expect is that they put up a fight, and their approach has been every bit as stealthful as England's in Pakistan three winters ago. On that occasion, England competed for every session, chewed up the overs with sometimes numbing certainty, and waited for the pressure to tell on the opposition. Sometime tomorrow, we will know how successful this tactic has been.

None of this would have been possible, however, without a sea-change in Bangladesh's attitude to Test cricket. Hannan Sarkar and Habibul Bashar contributed a pair of free-flowing fifties to confirm the talent in this side, but each fell shortly after their landmarks - a notorious trait among Bangladeshi batsmen. It was Mushfiqur Rahman's tortuous 43 not out that provided the truest indication of the new mindset.

Mushfiqur's efforts batted England to a standstill. He came to the crease at 148 for 4, at precisely the moment when England might have come flooding back into control. But his approach, and that of Khaled Mashud and Javed Omar, drew the sting of an already toiling attack, in which Gareth Batty's sharp turn was the only viable attacking option. Tomorrow, Mushfiqur has the chance to extend Bangladesh's advantage, and just possibly make himself a hero.

Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo. He will be accompanying England throughout their travels in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.