Sun Shines on England Again

The equation for Bangladesh at a sunny Leeds today was simple – win, or have no further interest in making the final of the NatWest Challenge. It was a big ask, and Habibul Bashar may well have surprised one or two people when he won the toss and elected to bat, given Headingley’s history of helping seam in the first hour.

England were still without regular captain Michael Vaughan and in addition rested Steve Harmison from the side that had played against Australia last Thursday, bringing Simon Jones back into the fold following his recovery from injury. The only change to the Bangladesh side from the one that had gone belly-up in their game at Old Trafford the day before against the Baggy Green was in name alone, Aftab Ahmed now wishing to be known by his family name of Chowdhury.

Darren Gough opened the bowling with a testing first over to Javed Omar Belim, who, after repeatedly playing and missing, eventually opened his account with a nudged brace down to fine leg. Fellow opener Simon Jones made a dreadful start to his comeback match, bowling to the left-handed Shahriar. On four successive occasions, his wicket-keeping namesake Geraint had to scramble across to gather deliveries down the leg side.

In his second over, the errant Jones gave Shahriar far too much room outside off stump and the ball was cracked square for the first boundary of the day. Darren Gough, too, was short to the same batsman and suffered exactly the same fate as Bangladesh made a most impressive start within the first five overs.

Jones pitched another one short and wide outside off stump and Shehriar Nafees (11), flashing hard, could consider himself unfortunate to feather the ball through to Marcus Trescothick at first slip, who dived forward as the ball died to leave Bangladesh on 22-1 after six overs.

Javed Omar was quick to pounce on a short ball from Gough and he enjoyed a little more luck than his opening partner, seeing the ball fly hard and high over slip for his first boundary. The England opening bowlers were spraying the ball all over the place at this early stage, short and wide or full on the batsman’s pads allowing easy singles on both sides of the wicket.

Tushar Imran opened his account with a prodded single down to third man then was fortunate to escape with his wicket intact when he flicked Gough just out of the reach of the diving Solanki to the square leg boundary. Two more boundaries followed in the same over – a delightful on-drive by Tushar Imran and then four overthrows as Collingwood strived to prevent a quick single by Javed Omar, much to the frustration of the bowler.

All in all it had been a dreadful start by the England opening bowlers, unable to exert any pressure whatsoever, yet first-change Chris Tremlett almost struck with his second ball. Paul Collingwood, diving, was unable to hang on to a chance at full stretch offered by Tushar Imran, whose single took Bangladesh through to 50-1.

Worse was to come for the unfortunate bowler when the normally immaculate England slip cordon made a mess of a regulation Javed Omar snick, Andrew Flintoff intercepting a ball heading straight for Trescothick only to put the ball to ground. The batsman, as if in sympathy, came close to running himself out as he looked on bemused.

Tremlett over-pitched to Tushar Imran and the batsman was quick to pounce, creaming the ball through extra cover for a splendid boundary. Meanwhile, Andrew Flintoff replaced Jones from the Football Stand End and immediately had Javed Omar fending a ball off in front of his ribcage then being rapped on the pad in an impressive maiden.

The unlucky Tremlett saw another chance spilled, although on this occasion Flintoff was unable to hang on to a far-from-straightforward chance offered by Tushar Imran. The bowler overpitched repeatedly and Javed Omar, making the most of the frequent lives offered by the profligate England fielders, drove handsomely through the covers to raise the 50 partnership. When the fielding restrictions were relaxed at the end of 15 overs, Bangladesh had moved somewhat eventfully on to 73-1.

Flintoff, too, conceded a flurry of runs in his next over, seeing Javed Omar steer delicately wide of slip, then a half-tracker got everything it deserved when Tushar Imran belted it to the point boundary. When the umpires called an interval for drinks, the Bangladeshis would have been happy to have raced on to 82 and absolutely delighted to have only one batsman back in the pavilion.

Flintoff and Tremlett applied a tourniquet to the scoring and the flow of runs dried up almost completely. All too predictably, Tushar Imran (32) tried to break the shackles and made the mistake of trying to cut a from close to off stump, only succeeding in chopping the ball on to his own wickets with the total on 92.

Enter the man who had captured the imagination over recent days, Mohammad Ashraful. Unfortunately for his many supporters, he failed to deliver on this occasion. The ball from Flintoff was full of length and on leg stump and the batsman, unable to resist, flicked it straight to Marcus Trescothick at square leg for a first ball duck.

Habibul Bashar was the man charged with the responsibility of resisting the hat-trick, and he barely escaped by the skin of his teeth. Flintoff pitched the ball full and straight and it thudded into the Bangladesh captain’s pads, perilously close to the off stump.

Paul Collingwood, destroyer of Bangladesh with six wickets and a century the last time the two sides met, became the fifth bowler to be used on this very easy-paced Headingley track. In the following over it was no surprise when Ashley Giles became the sixth as England took the pace off the ball. All the time the brakes were being applied as England sought to frustrate, content to allow a few singles, with neither Bashar nor Javed Omar able to penetrate the field to great effect.

Once again, Bangladesh were unable to resist the England pressure. The fleet-of-foot Paul Collingwood prevented a scampered single and the resultant direct hit left Habibul Bashar (10) floundering a foot short of his ground. The only doubt at first was whether the keeper had disturbed the bails but the slow-motion replays confirmed the Bangladeshi captain’s worst fears.

Chowdhury’s entry into the fray brought a brief flurry of runs, a couple of scampered singles followed by a lovely on-drive off Collingwood, the first boundary for more than an hour. Javed Omar brought up his half-century with a push to mid-on but in general the session between the two drinks breaks had been dreary stuff. Not for nothing are the ICC tinkering with the format of One Day Internationals in months to come.

With the total on 138 Aftab Ahmed Chowdhury, who had made 15, telegraphed a charge down the track to the bowling of Ashley Giles. The bowler pushed the ball through a little flatter and quicker, bowling the batsman neck and crop.

Darren Gough replaced the economical Collingwood for a couple of overs as the Bangladesh innings entered the latter stages but was unable to produce any semblance of a breakthrough. Boundaries remained at a premium, though, with Javed Omar Belim still content to nudge ones and twos as the innings entered the final few overs.
Ashley Giles was the first of the England bowlers to complete his full allocation of ten overs, ending with the highly creditable figures of 1-28. Simon Jones, meanwhile, continued to struggle with both line and length, producing a delivery short and wide which Khaled Mashud had little difficulty in despatching past fine leg. Three balls later, a half-volley thudded into the boundary boards at mid-off as Bangladesh looked to accelerate at the death.

Javed Omar pounced upon a slower ball from Flintoff but he found that timing the ball, even at this late stage, was a terribly difficult matter. Four balls later the opener’s marathon spell in the middle came to an end for a valuable if rather one-paced 81, yorked by England’s most penetrative bowler by far with the overall score on 183-6.

Darren Gough came back for his customary final spell and made life awkward with his customary series of yorkers without looking particularly menacing, whereas similar deliveries from the taller Flintoff carried real menace every time one was produced from the bag. So it proved again when Mashrafe Mortaza was cleaned up for a single, bowled neck and crop to give the big Lancastrian his fourth wicket.

Successive boundaries from former captain Khaled Mashud further embarrassed Gough to the tune of 14 runs off the penultimate over and in the process took his side past 200. It was left to Flintoff to bring the innings to a close with a splendid last over, full of bristling aggression but marked by further shoddiness in the field as Solanki and Geraint Jones made a mess of a simple run-out chance.

Bangladesh had managed 208-7 from their full allocation of 50 overs with Khaled Mashud finishing undefeated on a quite excellent 42. Javed Omar’s knock of 81 had been instrumental in reaching even such relatively modest heights on a track that gave little assistance to bowler or batsman alike. Andrew Flintoff was the pick of the England bowlers, the only seamer to offer any genuine penetration and his figures of 4-29 were fully justified.

Nazmul Hossain got things under way again after lunch and his opening delivery to Marcus Trescothick was a leg-stump half volley the Somerset man had no problem in easing past square leg for the first boundary of the England reply. A spirited comeback had the batsman watchful for the remainder of the over.

The new ball was shared with the hitherto impressive Mashrafe Mortaza, the only Bangladeshi bowler who had given England any difficulty throughout the early part of the summer. He was on the spot yet again from the word go, Andrew Strauss easing one past gulley for his opening single.

Bangladesh kept things admirably tight for the opening four overs, then Strauss played a lovely square drive for four off Nazmul before easing the bowler poker-straight for a couple to get the scoreboard ticking along. Another crisp on-drive brought Strauss further reward, but he enjoyed a let-off when an almighty yahoo aimed in the direction of square leg produced a steepling chance to Mohammed Rafique, running round at third man. The odds were heavily in favour of the batsman, and so it turned out when the tumbling fielder was unable to hang on.

Strauss was fortunate to survive a loud appeal for leg before wicket when Nazmul Hossain pitched one right up to him, but neither opening batsman was making scoring appear to be anything other than tricky on a wicket which was getting slower and lower by the minute.

Conversely, anything short sat up and asked to be hit, and Strauss answered with a clubbing shot over midwicket for four off the bowling of Nazmul. When he tried to drive over the bowler’s head, though, the ball barely scraped over two despairing fielders converging on the fleeting chance.

Immaculate timing by Strauss, warming to his task, brought him a fine boundary past square leg when Mortaza erred in both line and length, and by the end of the 10th over England had progressed with few alarms to 45 without loss.

Two lovely square drives, one off the front foot, one off the back, brought Strauss further boundaries off the previously inexpensive Nazmul and took England past 50. When the off side was penetrated again in the same over, the game was beginning to run away from Bangladesh at a pace.

Nazmul showed his inexperience by trying to dig one in against Trescothick but the ball barely climbed above stump height. The batsman watched the ball all the way on to his bat, then all the way into Row Q for a maximum, prompting the Bangladesh captain to turn to spin for the first time.

Manjural Islam Rana’s first over was a mixed bag, twice threatening the edge yet allowing 11 runs. The final ball was turned through midwicket for a brace by Strauss to progress to a fine half-century. Spin was the order of the day from both ends, but Trescothick dealt with Mohammad Rafique with contempt, striking him for four and six in successive balls.

With the first 15 overs done and dusted and the total on 99, Trescothick tried to dab a ball from Manjural down to third man, but only succeeded in giving a catch to Khaled Mashud behind the sticks. This prompted England to give Andrew Flintoff a promotion up the order, and he immediately nudged a single to bring the hundred up.

Mohammad Rafique gave Flintoff cause for concern with one that lifted and turned, alas for the bowler too much to find the outside edge. In the same bowler’s next over, Flintoff was dragged out of his ground and Mashud had the bails off in a trice, but the batsman’s foot just snaked back over the line in the nick of time.

Manjural drifted on to Flintoff’s pads and the resultant sweep was executed perfectly. The next ball, with extra protection on the leg side, Flintoff laid back and cut through the vacant pastures at third man for successive boundaries to take the total to 119-1 off 20 overs.

A quicker ball from Rafique was picked instantly by Flintoff (22), the ball threaded neatly through the narrowest of gams at backward point for another four. The bowler had the last laugh, however, defeating an ungainly sweep to pick up a leg before wicket decision and leave England on 134 when the second wicket went down.

Once again England departed from the expected batting order, sending Solanki out to bat at four, and the Rajasthan-born batsman started with two runs to midwicket. Andrew Strauss was still knocking the ball around well, and at the halfway stage, England were just 66 short of their target with eight wickets in hand.

Manjural gave way to Aftab Ahmed Chowdhury at the Football Stand End and the medium-pacer started well enough, going for just two singles in his first over, but at the Kirkstall Lane End Mohammad Rafique’s persistence paid off, trapping Solanki leg before wicket for just 8.

To the delight of the crowd, Kevin Pietersen was the next to be promoted up the order, but the normally hard-hitting batsman was very watchful at first, content to block anything that was pitched in line. As if to order, the eight-over drought without a boundary ended when Pietersen launched Mohammad Rafique over midwicket for four. In the next over, Pietersen turned his attention to Chowdhury, driving on the up through extra cover.

Pietersen effortly slog-swept Rafique over midwicket for six, but still showed plenty of respect for any ball pitched in line or which carried any real threat to his tenure in the middle. Strike bowler Mashrafe Mortaza was brought back into the attack in what amounted to one final throw of the dice, and the young man at least succeeded in keeping Pietersen quiet.

Strauss continued to push his ones and twos, moving on to 80, but Pietersen (23) finally took a liberty and paid the price, caught inches inside the boundary at long on by Mohammad Rafique off the bowling of Manjural Islam Rana.

Collingwood played Mashrafe Mortaza neatly off the pack foot to extra cover, then Strauss aimed an ugly heave in the general direction of midwicket. The ball squirted high over cover and to the amusement of many on the Western Terrace, all around Shahriar for four. Collingwood took the score past 200 with a late dab to third man for four.

A huge six by Strauss off the bowling of Manjural Islam Rana took him on to 98 and the team scores level. To the amusement of many, his attempt to finish the game in style ended with him charging down the track to be unceremoniously bowled. Anticlimactically, the game ended with a wide down the leg side.

With England winning this game more comfortably that the margin of five wickets suggests, the final two group games are rendered academic as far as qualification for the final is concerned. As expected, the big two will contest the main event next weekend, but this Bangladesh team will take plenty of credit and a decent measure of immortality from the tournament.

Match Summary

Bangladesh 208-7, 50 overs
Javed Omar Belim 81, Khaled Mashud 42*
Flintoff 4-29

England 209-5, 38.5 overs
Strauss 98, Trescothick 43
Manjural Islam Rana 3-57, Mohammad Rafique 2-44

England won by 5 wickets
CricketWeb Man of the Match
Andrew Strauss (England)

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