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Character of comeback can't mask England failings

Moeen Ali demonstrated that he had learned from his experience at Chittagong, but England were lucky to be let back into the game

There have been many memorable comebacks in cricket. Headingley 1981, for example. Or Koltata 2001. Or the remarkable tale of Middlesex's Harry Lee, who, at the Battle of Fromelles in 1915, was captured by the Germans after spending three days bleeding and broken in no-man's land. He defied the doctors, and even a memorial service held by his nearest and dearest, and went on to play one Test during an injury crisis on the South Africa tour of 1930-31.
By comparison, England's comeback on day one in Dhaka seems pretty tame. But, after a wretched first three hours when it appeared they might be facing a vast first-innings score, they could feel pretty satisfied in restricting Bangladesh to a first-innings total of 220. Certainly when they were 171 for 1 and England's bowlers were struggling to hit the cut strip, it seemed as if things would be much, much worse. To take the final nine wickets for the addition of just 49 runs did, at least, show some character.
But impressive though the comeback was, encouraging though the bowling of Ben Stokes, in particular, continues to be, this was a performance that will not have left them quaking in India.
If England bowl like this in India, they will be thrashed. They will not be able to afford a session as bad as the first one here and they will not be let back into the game as easily as Bangladesh allowed them back here. The India batting is too strong, too ruthless and too motivated to allow England to get away with such loose cricket.
For England got away with it here. From the moment Imrul Kayes thrashed a Chris Woakes long-hop to point in the day's third over, England benefited from loose Bangladesh batting. While Tamim Iqbal batted beautifully, the likes of Shakib Al Hasan and Shuvagata Hom will reflect on their dismissals - wafting outside off stump - with little joy. Bangladesh may still have provided the defining innings of this game, but they will know they have risked letting England back into this game when they should have closed them out completely.
There was some progress discernable for England. Moeen Ali, in particular, demonstrated that he had learned from his experience at Chittagong to claim the second five-wicket haul of his Test career. His Test bowling average dipped below 40 as a consequence.
We already knew that, on such surfaces, he presented a terrific challenge to left-handed batsman. But none of his five victims in Chittagong was a right-hander and, given the India top-order is packed with them, that was a concern.
Here, by bowling round the wicket, he maximised the benefit of any natural variation. He aimed at leg stump, brought the leg slip and short leg into play if the ball turned and the keeper and slip into play if it did not. And, most of all, he knew that, if the batsmen missed, he was in with a good chance of gaining an lbw decision.
Moeen modestly admitted afterwards that he had not bowled an intentional arm-ball but, reasoning that if he didn't know which ones were going to spin and which ones were going to drift away, the batsmen had even less chance. In all, he claimed the wicket of three right-handers, though the wickets of the left-handers Tamim and Mominul Haque with deliveries that skidded on were perhaps the most satisfying.
"It was just natural variation," he said. "I don't feel I bowled great. I just tried to bowl tight, which I don't really do normally. I said to Cooky 'If I'm not bowling maidens, just take me off.' It's something I need to do better."
"I did all right. I don't really have much success as a spinner, but I think the pace I bowl helps and I'm trying to be more consistent. I'm nowhere near where I want to be as a spinner, but I'm trying to be accurate and the 30 games I've played have helped me a bit."
Moeen also admitted that Stokes had been England's "main man". And it is true that Stokes had, once again, defied the slow surface to hurry batsmen with his strength and pace and defeat them with his control of reverse swing. To have hit Mushfiqur Rahim with a bouncer on such a surface was remarkable. Both Moeen and Tamim described him as "brilliant" and he now has a Test bowling average of 16.33 since January 10. He is no batsman who bowls; he is the real thing as an allrounder. India will have taken note, but perhaps also taken note of England's over-reliance upon him.
Perhaps they will not be so reliant in India. The last time England looked as hapless in the field as they did in the first session here was the Edgbaston Test of 2012 when Stuart Broad and James Anderson were rested. It might be optimistic to expect Anderson to play much of a part in India, but Broad's absence was felt keenly here. There is no way he would have bowled with so little control.
Moeen also revealed that the coach, Trevor Bayliss, urged the team to refocus when they came in at lunch.
"He just said that we're going to have sessions like this in the winter and we're going to have to get better at recognising it and understanding how to change it," Moeen said. "He wasn't really angry. He was just a bit disappointed but he never shows when he's angry. He just made us focus a bit more on what we needed to do."
And what they needed to do was bowl maidens. Or at least apply some control. Not until the 27th over bowled by spin, did any of England's trio manage a maiden. It is no coincidence that, with both Stokes (who conceded only 13 from 11 admirably controlled overs) and Moeen bowling with impressive control, the wickets started to fall. It won't be so easy in India, but it did at least show the direction of travel they must take.
None of that disguises the faults. It doesn't disguise the struggles of Zafar Ansari, who might be excused on the grounds of nerves, or Adil Rashid. And, most of all, it doesn't disguise the continuing struggles of the top order. So far this series, England's third wicket has fallen on a score of 21, 28 and 42. They might get away with that in Bangladesh; they are most unlikely to do so in India. But, for now, it did just about keep them in this game.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo