At Manchester, June 4-6, 2010. England won by an innings and 80 runs. Toss: England. Test debut: A. Shahzad.
At 4.24 p.m. on the second day of this curious Test, Bangladesh's players could look back with pride on over five sessions of hard-fought cricket in which they had shared the spoils equally with England. After they restricted the home batsmen to a first-innings total of 419, Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes picked up where they had left off at Lord's, opening with 126 in 23.5 overs of uninhibited strokeplay. Taking the game into a fifth day seemed eminently possible; embarrassing their hosts was not out of the question. Yet less than 24 hours later, England's players were spraying each other with champagne, and Bangladesh coach Jamie Siddons was reflecting on the fact that his side had lost all 20 wickets in scoring 213 further runs in 64.3 overs. Ten fell in Saturday's prolonged evening session, chiefly to a rejuvenated Swann and the impressive debutant Ajmal Shahzad; then, on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, all ten were swept aside, again in a single extended session - 34.1 overs of cricketing carnage when they were, indeed, easy meat for England's three seamers. Many neutrals, and even some local supporters, thought that this was rather a sad end to a series in which Shakib Al Hasan's players had contributed much.
Bangladesh's second collapse was easier to explain than their first. Drizzle had prevented any play on the third morning and, by the time conditions were fit, a combination of heavy skies and the warm atmosphere, not to mention a poor weather forecast, made Strauss's decision regarding the follow-on very straightforward. (Even here, though, Bangladesh were a shade unlucky: had the England captain been forced to decide late on Saturday evening, indications were that he would have batted again.) As it was, the top order suffered a grievous blow as early as the second ball of the innings, when Tamim edged a nasty, lifting delivery from Anderson to Prior and thus collected only his second score below 52 in eight Test innings against England. Once they lost their young champion - the man who had flayed Strauss's bowlers in scoring 108 the previous afternoon - the technique of the Bangladesh batsmen was mercilessly exposed, in conditions beloved of English seamers but almost never seen in Chittagong. Finn claimed Kayes's wicket with a short ball for the fourth time in the series, when the opener hooked him to Shahzad at deep backward square leg; Anderson, swinging the ball both ways and obtaining plenty of movement off a pitch offering a modicum of variable bounce, added Junaid Siddique and Mohammad Ashraful to his bag. At 39 for six in the 14th over, Bangladesh's plight had statisticians checking the country's lowest score in Test cricket. It was 62 against Sri Lanka, but Mahmudullah's resistance averted similar indignity. Finn's five for 42, which gave him 15 wickets in the series, included some very easy dismissals and prompted Mike Atherton's observation that Bangladesh lacked stomach for the fight. Perhaps so, but one wondered how often they had faced an international attack in such custom-made conditions.
The previous afternoon, it was the quartet of England bowlers who had attracted sympathy as they vainly attempted to cope with Tamim's glittering talent. He became the first Bangladeshi to score hundreds in successive Test innings when he cut Swann for four; he reached the landmark off exactly 100 balls, 11 of which he smacked to the boundary. Some of the sun-soaked 11,226 spectators - only a thousand or so below the capacity at an Old Trafford stadium in the middle of a major redevelopment - may later have recalled Tamim's one six, which disappeared deep into the crowd beyond the long-on boundary to bring up his fifty. But a square drive off Anderson, hit on the up and off the back foot, had a claim to be the best shot of the international summer. After the match, Tamim was asked why he had coped with the England attack better than his colleagues: "I work harder," he replied simply, as if to remind everyone of the effortful sweat that so often lies behind seemingly effortless style.
Once Tamim was dismissed, caught behind off a tired cut at Anderson, the Bangladesh batting looked fragile indeed. Swann got plenty of turn in a 15-over spell from the Stretford End, and collected his seventh five-wicket haul in only his 20th Test, but too many of the tourists - Shakib was a good example - played his off-spin naively, relying on firm-footed crease-bound drives instead of a more mobile approach. At the Brian Statham End, Yorkshire's Shahzad, whose first six overs had gone for 35, settled into Test cricket in fine style, taking three wickets in 16 deliveries. His first success owed something to luck, when Ashraful's slash went straight to Morgan at backward point, but the scalps of Mahmudullah and Shafiul Islam were claimed by Shahzad's ability to swing the ball and obtain movement off the pitch at around 90mph. His use of reverse swing made comparisons with Simon Jones understandable, and not in any way fanciful.
However, while it was the England bowlers who roused the crowd in a final session described by Swann as "crazy", the foundation for the victory had been laid by their middle-order batsmen, in particular Bell, whose 128 was full of understated class. Coming to the wicket a quarter of an hour before lunch on the first day, a Friday, he would probably have departed immediately had Shakib put a forward short leg in for his first ball. Instead, Bell survived to play one of his most composed innings, unfussy in defence and polished in attack.
Bell's 70-run partnerships with Pietersen and Morgan repaired the damage done to England's innings by Shafiul, who was overbowled on the first morning - when he had the admirable figures of 9-2-18-2 - and was too tired to continue in this vein. By the close Bell and Prior had guided England to 275 for five, and they were to take their partnership to 153 on Saturday before Bell was bowled, by a sublime ball from Shakib which pitched middle and leg and hit the top of off stump. Shakib also claimed the wicket of Prior, whose reverse swat prevented him from reaching the century which would have conclusively answered Craig Kieswetter's challenge to his place.
This match was originally scheduled for Leeds, but it was transferred to Old Trafford, which had been told it would not stage another Test before 2012, because Headingley was assigned one of the two neutral Tests between Pakistan and Australia in July.
Man of the Match: I.R. Bell.
Men of the Series: England - S.T. Finn; Bangladesh - Tamim Iqbal.
Close of play: First day, England 275-5 (Bell 87, Prior 21); Second day, Bangladesh 216.