England Tour of Bangladesh - 5 Things We Have Learned So Far
With the two-match Test series beginning on Thursday, Sports Gazette picks 5 of the biggest talking points from the tour so far.
1) Ben Duckett looks the real deal
After becoming the first player to win the Professional Cricketers’ Association Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year in the same year, Duckett’s dream English summer has continued into autumn on the subcontinent.
The 22-year-old has so far amassed four half-centuries in six innings; two of these being crucial contributions towards England’s hard-fought ODI series win. His other two 50s came during their warm-up matches against a Bangladesh Cricket Board XI, both ending with Duckett retiring not out. The most recent of these, an innings of 60 from 101 balls, showed that Duckett is able to temper his aggressive style of play when needed, a trait that will be looked upon favourably when it comes to selection for the first Test on Thursday.
Duckett’s form so far in Bangladesh, coupled with a remarkable summer – one that saw him score 1,338 Championship runs at 58.17, while also making a considerable impact in the shorter forms of the game - means that he should make his Test debut in Chittagong. Whether this is opening alongside captain Alastair Cook or lower down the order is yet to be seen.
2) Teenager Hameed has shown enough to get Test chance
The selection of 19-year-old Haseeb Hameed was the story of the summer, capping off a remarkable county season for the Lancashire opener. After only making his first-class debut towards the end of last season, Hameed has shown maturity beyond his years in first cementing his place at the top of the order for the Red Rose, and now by playing his way into the England set-up.
This summer Hameed scored 1,129 County Championship runs at an average of 52.45, including four centuries. His cautious approach to batting has seen him be somewhat prematurely compared to England legend Geoffrey Boycott, although you can see why after his conservative style saw him face 2,934 balls in the County Championship this season, 153 more than any other player.
Hameed’s spectacular season also saw him become the first Lancastrian to score two hundreds in a Roses match, and the youngest batsman to surpass 1,000 runs in a year for Lancashire, eclipsing Michael Atherton. His first outing in Bangladesh resulted in a slow 16 off 56, but he showed good resolve to come back and score an impressive 57 off 125 in the second warm-up match.
A debut against Bangladesh would be a considerably kinder introduction to Test cricket than one against India or South Africa, England’s two subsequent opponents. Therefore one would reasonably expect that England’s selectors will give Hameed the chance to become only the second teenager ever to open for England sooner rather than later.
3) Gareth Batty looks likely to make his Test return after 11 years
Another remarkable selection story was that surrounding 39-year-old spinner Gareth Batty, a man who last played for England in 2005. Batty’s last Test cap, also against Bangladesh, came before Kevin Pietersen or Alastair Cook had made their England debuts. England have played 142 Test matches since then, the most ever between call-ups. Batty is more than double the age of Haseeb Hameed and made his first-class debut in the year Hameed was born.
While Batty’s form this season captaining Surrey has been commendable, taking 41 wickets at an average of 31, it is his experience that has merited his long-awaited recall. With England’s two main spinners, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, both struggling to make a consistent impact with the ball, Batty’s presence will be priceless in helping to change this. With no dedicated spin coach on tour with the team, Batty will almost be acting as a stand-in, using his vast knowledge and experience to help nurture England’s scarce spin resources.
While fellow Surrey spinner Zafar Ansari staked his claim with an impressive 4 for 68 in the latest warm-up match, Batty would still be expected to deputise if the selectors decide to play three spinners in either test.
4) England’s ODI resurgence is continuing
After an embarrassing exit in the group stages of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, a campaign that culminated in a comprehensive defeat to Bangladesh, England’s ODI fortunes have since improved drastically.
After Peter Moores was sacked for a second time after another lacklustre stint as head coach, England hired current coach Trevor Bayliss, and the Australian has overseen a massive resurgence in the shorter forms of the game.
Since his appointment England have won five out of seven ODI series, including a notable series win against 2015 World Cup finalists New Zealand and an away series win against Pakistan in the UAE. In this time they have also broken the record for the highest ever ODI total, a mammoth 444 for 3 against Pakistan.
While their 2-1 series victory over Bangladesh may not look that impressive, it ended a run of five successive home series wins for the Tigers. Even more promising were the performances of England’s young guns, with the aforementioned Ben Duckett contributing well, and Sam Billings, for so long on the fringes of the team, coming in to provide a match-winning 62 in the final match of the series. England’s top three in that match, scoring 157, had only 14 appearances between them compared to the 250 shared by their opposite numbers. Ben Stokes’ return to form with a maiden ODI ton was also a highlight.
After a long period of mediocre short-form cricket, Bayliss has transformed this team into world-beaters. Stokes has come out and said that they are now aiming to climb to number one in the world rankings, and if this team stays together it is definitely possible.
5) It could be an eventful Test series
If the ill-tempered ODI series is anything to go by, we could be in for an interesting two Tests. The second match of the series saw tempers flare with England unhappy over Bangladesh’s enthusiastic celebrations after captain Jos Buttler was dismissed. Buttler had a few choice words for the Bangladeshi fielders, and vice-captain Ben Stokes seemed to confront Tigers' opener Tamim Iqbal after the match. Tigers' captain Mashrafe Mortaza and batsman Sabbir Rahman were both fined 20% of their match fees for the incident, as Buttler escaped with a reprimand.
Coach Trevor Bayliss has come out and backed his players’ involvement in the incidents, saying his team will not back down from any confrontation. He has however urged his team to remain focused in the heat and high-pressure environment of the subcontinent.
Bangladesh captain Mortaza has since refused to apologise for the incident, showing that he and his team will also not shy away from conflict.
Bangladesh’s reputation as pushovers seems to have now evaporated, and while their Test record is much less impressive than their ODI record, England should still expect a tough series ahead.