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For the seventh day running in this series, England were forced to struggle for the ascendancy
October 30, 2003
Mashrafe Mortaza: the architect of England's downfall
Nevertheless, for the seventh day running in this series, England were forced to struggle for the ascendancy - and after losing their last five wickets for 13 runs, even that was far from guaranteed. When, late in the day, Marcus Trescothick suffered a suspected broken thumb, England's sense of unease was compounded.
In the last few days, there has been some mischevious talk in the papers of England boycotting their meals at the team hotel. We are assured that these are utterly false, but at the very least, England would be advised to give up lunch on match days after their latest bout of indigestion.
It all started back at Dhaka, in the very first warm-up match of the tour, when they lost four wickets for no runs. Yesterday, they slumped from 126 for 0 to 134 for 4 inside five flatulent overs and today they went one worse. Had it not been for Nasser Hussain's grimly determined 76, and a chirpy 37 from Chris Read, England would have been facing another sub-300 total.
The architect of England's downfall was Mashrafe Mortaza, Bangladesh's hugely impressive young paceman. With a brisk run-up and an elegant slingy action, he bowled with pace, hostility and great accuracy - and showed an impressive ability to collect wickets with an aging ball. Hussain, who loitered for nearly six hours and 266 balls, approached his innings as if he was trying to recreate his Durban epic of 1999-2000 against Donald and Pollock, and there can't be a better complement than that.
Yesterday evening Rikki Clarke, a chastened man since his fine for abusive language at Dhaka, had looked capable of taking the game away from Bangladesh, but Mortaza wrapped him up early this morning. But Clarke has two strings to his bow (three, if you include his effortless fielding), and for the first time in England colours, he demonstrated his incisive abilities as a seam bowler.
At one stage he had picked up two wickets for three runs in six overs, proof that he has benefited from bowling day-in-day-out, rather than in the piecemeal fashion that he has been used to at Surrey. But Clarke is not yet the finished article, and he has not yet done enough in this series to outshine his Bangladeshi counterpart, Mushfiqur Rahman. Once again, Rahman provided some timely ballast to Bangladesh's middle order, while his under-rated seamers were quite good enough to bundle out England's tail in double-quick time.
In every department, Bangladesh are snapping at England's heels, and if Trescothick is out of action, that fear factor is sure to have become that little bit scarier.
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo. He will be accompanying England throughout their travels in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
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