Paul Edwards reflects on the first day of the npower Old Trafford Test.
At Old Trafford: 2nd npower Test Match: 1st Day: England have scored 275 for 5 against Bangladesh.
The train from Southport to Manchester is an old bone-shaker. Early morning commuters travel on it out of weary compulsion rather than blithe choice. Some of them eye my Lancashire laptop bag with sleepy curiosity and then undisguised envy. "It must be alright to have a job like yours," one or two of them say, if we happen to fall into conversation. So this morning it was a pleasant change to have some companions who shared the whole journey to Old Trafford with me, and even pleasanter to reflect in mid-afternoon that those attending the Bangladesh Test Match had had so much to enjoy.
A lot of their fun stemmed from the effusive enthusiam and admirable skill of the visitors. For the second Test in a row Shakib Al Hasan's players had surprised England and more than held their own against a team who had been expected to overwhelm them.
At Lord's it had been the batting of Tamim Iqbal which had earned warm praise; on the first morning at Old Trafford, it was the seam bowling of Shafiul Islam which gave the lie to the view that this series would be a routine annihilation. Operating from the Brian Statham End, the right-arm seamer got just enough help from the wicket to claim the wickets of both Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott in an excellent spell of 9-2-18-2.
By lunch, Bangladesh could rightly claim to have won the session as England came in on 92-3, Alastair Cook having departed ten minutes before the interval, caught at slip off Abdur Razzak's first delivery.
There were other reasons for quiet contentment at Old Trafford this warm Friday afternoon. The Test Match was not a sell-out but it was no sort of damp squib either. Encouraged by the half-term holiday - who needs GCSEs anyway ? - and by the good weather, a very decent crowd of 9,700, filled the open stands at this rapidly changing ground.
How the punters cheered as Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell added 61 runs in 11.3 overs after lunch, both batsmen hitting Razzak for sixes over long-on. How they groaned when the self-effacing purveyor of the flamingo shot galloped down the wicket once too often to Shakib and was stumped for an 81-ball 64.
And so the day drifted into afternoon. Eoin Morgan, busy, inventive and wristy, joined Bell, and the pair took the score to 215-4 by tea. By then Shafiul had been forced off the field by cramp and could not bowl for 46 overs. The consensus in the press-box as the cream-stuffed cherry scones arrived was that honours were even, for this looks to be yet another excellent Old Trafford wicket. The consensus in the crowd to our left and right was that a few Mexican waves were in order and it is possible that the louder individuals had partaken of the fortified cordials. However this Test Match was going to develop, it couldn't be accused of being a non-event.
A quarter of an hour after tea it was the Bangladeshi flags that were being waved. The only fault with Morgan's cut off Shahadat was that it was in the air and within an arm's reach of Jahurul Islam in the gully. That, though, was all the encouragement the fielder needed as he dived to complete a magnificent snare. Yet again, and probably not for the last time in his game, England had threatened to dominate the Bangladeshis; yet again, a piece of individual skill had wrested the contest level.
Bell and Prior dug in, the latter batsman lucky to survive both when an attempted cut off Razzak flew past slip at shin height and when a confident lbw appeal by the same bowler was turned down by Billy Bowden. When bad light and rain forced the players off the field 25 minutes early, England had taken their first innings to a fairly healthy 275-5 with Bell on 87 not out.
Coventry's finest, dropped by Mushfiqur off Shakib when only 36, has now taken his average against Bangladesh to a rather freakish 197.33. He is probably looking forward to the morning; he is not the only one.
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh, Peakpix Digital Images