Test matches (2): England 2 Bangladesh 0
One-day internationals (3): England 2 Bangladesh 1
Bangladesh's second full tour of England marked their tenth year as a Test-playing country. Not that a decade's experience at the top table was evident, as they were easily defeated in both Tests - the second, at Old Trafford, inside three days. Twice in that match they lost ten wickets in a session. Except for Tamim Iqbal, their swashbuckling opener whose successive hundreds at least elevated the contest to men against man and boys, their cricket struggled for the legitimacy to compete at this level.
The one-sided nature of England's fourth clean sweep against them - the kind of 100% record not held by an England Test team since they won their first eight Tests against South Africa in the late 19th century - inevitably drew criticism that the visitors were not worthy opponents. They did manage to dilute that view with their first-ever victory over England when they won the second one-day international, at Bristol, under the captaincy of Mashrafe bin Mortaza, who was much less defensive than Shakib Al Hasan had been in the Test series.
Test cricket's increasing struggle to justify itself, in the face of Twenty20's global march, was not well served by Bangladesh's capitulation. Having handed them Test status in 2000, the International Cricket Council now suggested they should play Tests against the leading teams only at home. This seemed to be a sop to countries with valuable broadcasting deals to protect; to improve, Bangladesh needed more experience of foreign conditions, not less.
There were few mitigating circumstances for the tourists' dire cricket, save the expected callowness in England's early-season conditions. Even the volcanic ash from Iceland's Eyjafjallajo¨kull, which in the end produced less fire and brimstone than Jamie Siddons, Bangladesh's Australian coach, failed to provide an excuse for their failings. Eruptions from the volcano managed to disrupt the travel plans of thousands coming to Europe, but a brief change in the wind allowed Bangladesh to arrive on time for their three scheduled warmup games, so they did not lack acclimatisation.
Pitches in England during May test the techniques and temperaments even of batsmen born and bred on them. But the Bangladeshis, with Tamim's glorious exception, appeared resigned to failure against the moving ball. Two of their three warm-up matches, at Chelmsford against virtually an Essex second team and against England Lions at Derby, ended in defeat, the need for adjustments with bat and ball - respectively to play late and straight, and to pitch it up - going unheeded.
A brawny left-hander, Tamim batted with destructive abandon. His refusal to limit his ambition or adjust his strokes was born of the confidence that only an exceptional eye for the ball can bring. Nobody else, on either side, managed to treat the bowling with such splendid disdain, and his hundreds in both Tests meant he could stand shoulder to shoulder with Chris Gayle and Matthew Hayden, those other left-handed bully boys of recent times.
When Tamim was at the crease, England's bowlers, like a football side 3-0 down in a relegation battle, lurched between attack and defence, often in successive balls. It was the batting equivalent of Graham Gooch's quip about his 183 against New Zealand and Richard Hadlee at Lord's in 1986: "Like facing the World XI one end and Ilford Seconds the other." That jibe had inspired New Zealand, however, who produced T-shirts emblazoned with both names as they won the next Test, and the series.
There was no such humble pie for England in these Tests, though Tamim did produce some royal entertainment for those spectators who turned up. He followed a fifty in his first innings at Lord's - where the ground was at least half full for each of the first three days - with 103, at more than a run a ball, in the second. Ever the showman, he celebrated with a Houdini-like contortion as he pointed at his name, printed on the back of his shirt, instructing team-mates on the dressing-room balcony to put it up on the Lord's honours board.
Tamim's hundred was not a lone effort; his fellow left-handers Imrul Kayes and Junaid Siddique both passed 50, Siddique for the second time in the match. The sluggish nature of the Lord's pitch prevented them from being overwhelmed by England's pace attack after they had overcome the new ball. It was a different matter at Old Trafford, where a combination of good carry and James Anderson's snaking swingers illustrated the gulf between Tamim, who struck a defiant 108, and the rest.
Having assessed Bangladesh on the winter tour, team director Andy Flower decided he could do without Paul Collingwood and Stuart Broad and withdrew them from front-line duties, part of his plan to manage the workloads of key players. Although England refused to call it rest, that is essentially what it was - though Broad may have begged to differ. He was sent on a month's strength and conditioning course overseen by fitness trainer Huw Bevan.
Collingwood's absence created a vacancy which allowed Jonathan Trott to settle again, after disappointing winter tours of South Africa and Bangladesh. Similarly, with Broad absent, Middlesex's promising fast bowler Steve Finn was afforded a chance to express himself in more sympathetic conditions than the lifeless pitches in Chittagong and Mirpur.
Trott, who had looked mentally shot on tour, needed to impress and did so, with a monumental double-hundred in England's first innings at Lord's after Bangladesh had put them in. He was always strong off his legs, with a calm control of his cut shots; Bangladesh's bowlers simply weren't consistent enough to deny him these comfort strokes and put him under pressure. Shahadat Hossain ended with five wickets, but his rally came too late to prevent England running the show.
A habit of repeatedly scratching his mark in long scars at the crease (which prompted Siddons to accuse Trott of bringing the game into disrepute, because it kept bowlers waiting) suggested a man of superstition or excessive nervous energy. But while South Africa managed to prey upon the quirk and distract him, Trott had come into this match in good form, having recently made a century for Warwickshire.
The role of county cricket, something which also benefited Ian Bell before his hundred in the Second Test, is sometimes underestimated in this era of coaches. Yet, as Kevin Pietersen's struggles for form revealed later in the summer, when Hampshire refused to disrupt team dynamics by giving him a game, there is no better preparation for batting than runs in the middle.
Finn was impressive at Lord's, with nine wickets in the match. His habit of falling over in his follow-through, which he did often, was disconcerting, though it did not dampen his rhythm or his aggression. Once the one-day series against Australia began, however, he was frogmarched into the same boot camp Broad had attended, to strengthen his beanpole frame.
Having recorded his first five-wicket Test haul on his home ground, Finn took another five in Bangladesh's second innings at Old Trafford, though Anderson deserved the lion's share there for an exhibition of swing bowling that left the batsmen wishing they had taken BlackBerries to the crease, in order that they might Google a solution. In the first innings it was Ajmal Shahzad, on his Test debut, who had induced similar panic among the visitors, this time with reverse swing. Indeed, the manner of his three for 45 suggested he could be the missing link in England's pace attack between the conventional swing of Anderson and the hit-the-pitch aggression of Finn and Broad.
A series that had looked tediously predictable before the start proved more interesting in the discoveries it had thrown up by the end.
Match reports for
Tour Match: Sussex v Bangladeshis at Hove, Jul 3, 2010
Tour Match: Middlesex v Bangladeshis at Lord's, Jul 5, 2010
1st ODI: Ireland v Bangladesh at Belfast, Jul 15, 2010
2nd ODI: Ireland v Bangladesh at Belfast, Jul 16, 2010
Only ODI: Scotland v Bangladesh at Glasgow, Jul 19, 2010
Only ODI: Bangladesh v Netherlands at Glasgow, Jul 20, 2010