Bangladeshi Brilliance

14 10 2010

Whilst all the hullabaloo regarding India’s series win over Australia has been going on; something brilliant has been happening in Bangladesh. That is, of course, if you are a Bangladeshi.

With the 3rd one day international just finished, Bangladesh have bowled out New Zealand to win the game by 9 runs. Having won the previous two games of a four match series this is their first series win over a full ICC member nation and, rightly, it appears things are going mad in Bangladesh.

Now we haven’t seen a single ball of these series so we cannot tell you about the standard of cricket, the umpiring or any other facet of the game yet we can say we are delighted for the Bangladesh team. Despite losing both home and away series in England, test and ODI, there were signs that just perhaps there was a quality to the side, albeit at times hidden in amongst the dross, that the cricketing world had not seen before. Whether it was the brilliance of Tamim Iqbal at Lords in the Summer, or the frankly incredible contributions from Shakib Al Hasan in this series so far, (in this game he scored a hundred to go with the fifty he scored in the first match and has comfortably out bowled Daniel Vettori as well) there is a hint of class that was not present before. Even more impressively they have won this series without Tamim who is injured.

You have to feel for the Kiwi’s though as suddenly this next couple of months is looking pretty grim. Following this they have a trip for 3 test matches and 2 ODI’s to India – hardly the place you would want to go having lost to Bangladesh. Looking at the scorecards however it appears that the Kiwi batting has simply not fired with the usual stalwarts of Ross Taylor, Vettori again and Brendan McCullum having a lean time of it. The Black Caps, like the Australians, are renowned ‘scrappers’ yet this quality appears to have been lost according to many of the reports during this series and that should be a major concern to them.

A while ago we wrote an article suggesting that the West Indies could learn a great deal from the Black Caps – both are teams with limited resources in terms of numbers of players amongst other things – yet the Kiwi’s have a better record over the past decade or so. However if New Zealand lose this extra grit then there is not really much to separate these too sides and that could be problematic for the future of cricket in the country. Perhaps we’re being melodramatic by suggesting this but it is surely a concern at some level.

To round off however, we would like to get back to Bangladesh and congratulate them once more on a brilliant and convincing performance. Lets see whether they can make it 4-0…

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Bangladesh Win At Last

11 07 2010

Bangladesh Win

Well that was a surprise!

We are talking, of course, about Bangladesh’s very first win over England in any form of cricket which occurred yesterday at the County Ground, Bristol. We have written about this series and its lack of meaningful context, yet suddenly, with this win for the the underdog, it has assumed, if not quite a relevancy, certainly an added piquancy. Unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool, English cricket fundamentalist, who only ever wants to see England crush their opposition with no sympathy for the up and coming nations, this was an exciting day for cricket. Whilst it is hardly likely to herald a changing in the world order it has served amongst other things as a wake up call for Andrew Strauss’ men who have now lost three from four games, a boost for the ECB with regard to potential returns from the third game and a major fillip to the Bangladeshi team who now have a chance of winning the series.

Jamie Siddons, probably the most frustrated national coach in the world and usually someone who looks like he is about to personally lynch the latest Bangladeshi to be dismissed in some careless and ridiculous manner, was delighted afterwards. It was possible to see from his reaction alone how much this win means for Bangladeshi cricket and, for that reason, it is difficult to begrudge them anything. Up until this game Bangladesh had not won in 14 one day matches against England and indeed in any form of cricket for 247 days against any opposition, despite putting in some impressive performances during this time.

In preceding matches with the game finely balanced, an Englishman has always stood up to take the game away from Bangladesh. Unfortunately for England; yesterday’s man was Jonathan Trott who, at several points through his innings, looked like he was batting for himself rather than the team. Only sparked into boundary hitting form late in his innings we couldn’t help but feel that the innings typified why he is not ever going to be a truly effective one day player. Had Morgan or Collingwood been the ones batting through, the game would have probably been won with overs to spare due to their ability to work the ball around. Indeed the progression of runs needed over the last 10 overs showed this perfectly. At 10 overs to go 66 runs were needed, which  but with quite honestly is the sort of asking rate Morgan laughs at, yet with Trott nurdling this became 23 from two.  Trott scored at a strike rate at just over 50 runs per 100 balls for much of his innings (at the end of the 35th over he had 45 from 83 balls) indicating a serious problem with keeping the scoreboard ticking over and in the long term probably losing the game for England.

To tell the truth, this first win for Bangladesh against England was always coming as they are a fast improving side and England were bound to have an off day at some point. The difference to Bangladesh yesterday was probably the captain. In the recent past Shakib Al Hasan has been doing the job and in all honesty has not been making a particularly good fist of it. Good bowler and useful batsman that he is, Shakib had previously shown the cricketing brain and tactical nous of a shrew, often seemingly playing for defeat (if such a thing is possible in professional sports!). The skipper for this series, Mashrafe Mortaza, has shown what a difference positive captaincy can make and we hope that he maintains his injury free form over the coming months and years as Bangladesh undoubtedly will need him. Without him at the helm, and despite Trott, we would go as far to say that England would probably have walked home fairly easily despite regularly losing wickets.

England came into this series with team in the grips of squad rotation and on a mini losing streak after Australia had ruthlessly highlighted their flaws in the final two one day games of their series. If England are truly going to challenge for the world cup next year in India, the following questions are the most pressing amongst a few others: Where is the quality back up for the established top 5? Is Craig Kieswetter really the answer at the top of the order? Shahzad or Bresnan?

Without a doubt England have a good team and are finally confident that they can win regularly in this format, yet they clearly still have some way to go before becoming true world beaters. Bangladesh on the other hand needed this badly. Regularly putting up a fight, they have been guilty of not following through to turn this fight into victories. We would like to see them challenge England once again in the final one day match as, who knows, with the added confidence this gives them, they could even sneak a series win!

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Morgan for Bell?

Ian Bell suffered an unfortunate injury in the match yesterday, breaking a meta tarsal in his foot attempting a catch whilst fielding, putting him out of the Pakistan test series. Unfortunate for Bell yes, but possibly a timely opportunity for Morgan to press his case in test cricket leading up to the Ashes.

Several famous ex-cricketers including such luminaries as Sunil Gavaskar, Shane Warne and Steve Waugh have already cited Morgan as a possible deciding factor in this Winter’s Ashes series due to his calmness under pressure and with Bell’s injury he now has a further chance to cement a place against Pakistan, which the Compulsive Hooker, as fervent Morgan fans are very pleased about.





Sachin’s Ashes Stars and the Worlds Best Spinner?

15 06 2010

Sachin’s Key Ashes Men

High praise yesterday for Eoin Morgan from none other than the great Sachin Tendulkar. Talking about the Ashes and Australia’s relative vulnerability at the moment, Tendulkar, asked to highlight the players he thought would be key when England tour down under this Summer, mentioned Strauss, KP, Graeme Swann and Eoin Morgan. The other three are self explanatory but it is a surprise to hear the great man mention Morgan.

Apparently it is Morgan’s composure and his ability to control the pace of his innings that he likes. Many commentators have raised doubts about a possible flaw in the Irishman’s technique on balls on or around off stump yet it is a fairly major accolade to have Sachin mention you; especially given Morgan’s modest first class record and reserve batsman status.

The Worlds Best Spinner?

Interestingly he also mentions Swann which appears to give credence to the argument that the Nottinghamshire man is one of the top spinners in world cricket at the moment – whatever the format. Indeed with the possible exception of Daniel Vettori we cannot see anyone else who consistently  challenges batsman both home and away. Harbhajan Singh is effective at home but less so elsewhere; Muralitharan looks like he has lost his old zip off the wicket (in 2009 he only took 26 wickets at 45 each); Mendis has been found out and the only other three spinners in the top ranked 20 bowlers, Shakib Al Hasan, Paul Harris and Danish Kaneria all tend to bowl a lot of overs for their wickets.

It is still relatively early days for Swann as he has only played 20 tests but his game isn’t going to change now after a decade of honing it in county cricket and there is no reason why he should not play for another 3-5 years and end up with 250 plus wickets.





Bangladesh Return To Old Habits

7 06 2010

Well that was short and not particularly sweet! From a position where Bangladesh were genuinely looking like they might have attained a similar total to England’s first innings lead – or at the very least saved the follow on – they subsided to an innings defeat inside three days. Around tea time on the second day, when their score reached the giddy heights of 153 -1 and Tamim Iqbal playing another brilliant innings, the Compulsive Hooker and many of the various commentators were suggesting that due to their recent improvements that the game would probably go the distance and a draw might be on the cards.

Sadly Bangladesh, suddenly finding themselves in unfamiliar territory (i.e. in a reasonable position), decided to fold with not one of the batsman after Tamim seemingly willing to take the responsibility on. Some of the shots in their first innings played by the middle order were simply appalling choices and must have had the ever glowering Jamie Siddons flying into a rage in the dressing room.

Having lost 10 wickets in the evening session on the second day and with conditions favouring England’s bowlers, it was hardly a surprise that they were then bowled out for next to nothing in the second innings. What was a surprise though was that, for the second time in a row, England managed to bowl out Bangladesh in a single session. This is the ultimate in capitulations and if it hadn’t been for the absurdly lowly placed Mahmudullah; the innings could have been over within 20 overs and for around 70 all out.

What does this mean for Bangladesh? Well they have definitely improved in certain areas, their batting for example (despite this last showing) has been much better in the home and away tests against England recently. Tamim of course has been a revelation and with signs that, just maybe, Siddique and Kayes are beginning to find their way all is not lost. Mushfiqur Rahim looks the best organised of their players and should probably bat in the top 6, similarly Mahmudullah is too low placed to be effective at 8, and Shakib, whilst he had a poor series, is a reasonable player too. There is hope in other words.

Their bowling on the other hand is a different story. The seamers are dire on the whole, although Shafiul Islam showed enough to suggest he should be opening the bowling more regularly and Shahadat also had his moments. Shakib apart, the spinners are also not up to much as most of them could most kindly be called ‘one day bowlers’. Containing but not threatening. Even Shakib is not much more than a Paul Harris who, if you have been reading this site for a while, you will know we do not rate particularly highly. (At least Shakib does spin the odd one though…)

England, on the other hand, will be pleased with their work at Old Trafford. Everything they needed to come off in their bowling did; Swann showed the last game was simply a blip, Finn took another five wicket haul, Anderson looked like he was back to ‘good Jimmy’ status, Shahzad had a good debut and, whilst still raw, looked like he had more than enough pace and swing to trouble the best.

In the batting it was much the same story across the two test matches, the only let downs probably being Alistair Cook, KP and possibly Eoin Morgan. With Collingwood to come back however and with County Cricket having thrown up a couple of likely replacements should any of the front line players get injured, there is no need to worry.

The clinical nature of the victory, coming as it did in 3 days, was also important as, if England are going to be challenging for the top spot in test cricket, they need to show a ruthlessness that had been absent in the previous game. England now face Pakistan later in the Summer and it is important that they take advantage of their disarray before going to the Ashes in November feeling at the top of their game.





A Disorganised Piece Summing Up England vs Bangladesh.

24 03 2010

As expected, England have completed their series in Bangladesh unbeaten having wrapped up the second test match today. A few thoughts on what we have learnt from the series; in no logical order:

  • Alistair Cook is not a natural captain. He appeared to be changing the field simply because he felt he should, rather than having any sort of master plan. This isn’t to say he wouldn’t grow into the job – just that he needs more experience. Nasser Hussain after all had numerous skeptics as to his capabilities early in his tenure, and look where he ended up.
  • Shakib Al Hasan is an even worse captain and is probably hindering Bangladesh at the moment. Anyone who bowls Abdur Razzaq for 3o plus overs per innings clearly is struggling.
  • Shakib on the other hand is a very decent player in the making, if not captain. Very young still and already scoring runs and taking wickets regularly.
  • Abdur Razzaq has taken over from Paul Harris as the most derided left arm spinner in world cricket.
  • Michael Carberry probably isn’t a test match opener. Harsh perhaps after one test, but it wasn’t exactly taxing stuff.
  • Jonathan Trott shouldn’t play for England again. This is likely to be considered a controversial attitude for the Compulsive Hooker to take, yet we feel his temperament is suspect and it looks a struggle every time he bats. And he’s South African and probably shouldn’t be playing to start with.
  • Ian Bell is England’s new batting hero and go to man. Unlikely we know, but long may it continue. We have Bell down for an Ashes hundred on the opening day of the series later this year. Big call but we think he’s turned the corner. (Come on Ian, don’t make us look silly….)
  • Prior can still bat but needs to score more big runs to keep Kieswetter (that other South African) at bay.
  • Finn looks good but we think he might have a little of Chris Tremlett in him. Not nasty enough in other words despite possessing the raw attributes.
  • Tamim Iqbal has the potential to be brilliant and needs to carry the Bangladeshi batting for 10 years to come.
  • Mahmudullah should stick to his batting. His bowling looks very innocuous, batting on the other hand is decent.
  • Bangladesh’s coach, Jamie Siddons, is likely to retire from the game within the near future due to stress and severe anger issues. We genuinely fear for the Bangladeshi players each time (and it happens every other time) they get out to a rash shot.
  • The referral system will become universal. Some of the umpiring in the series was downright appalling – including the 3rd umpire.
  • Kayes should find another job. 10 tests as an opener, average of 13.70.
  • Why do all poor sides seem to send their best batsman in as far down as 9? Naeem Islam and Shafiul Islam look better players than Kayes and possibly Siddique.
  • Please can someone in the Bangladesh hierarchy explain to the groundsman in their test stadiums that a flat and lifeless pitch helps nobody, least of all themselves! If they continue playing on pitches like this they will find themselves in all sorts of trouble as soon as they encounter even a slightly lively wicket.
  • KP can bat again. Good.
  • Bresnan can too. Pity his bowling is, at best, still ‘workmanlike’.

Bangladesh Verdict: Bright spots suggesting a better future. Need to buckle down a little more though with the bat and start producing some bowlers who can back up Shakib. 20 wickets wins a match and Bangladesh will struggle on this front for many years at their current rate of progress. 5/10.

England Verdict: Solid and pretty unspectacular. Swann continues to work his magic, Cook is a machine once more bat in hand (unfortunately this isn’t a good thing in captaincy though) and generally all in good order. 7/10.





IPL vs Bangladesh/England

15 03 2010

Lalit Modi must be loving the ICC and the ECB at the moment. The IPL launched with its usual razzmatazz and thunder last week, and whilst not quite grabbing the same amount of headlines as it has done over the past 2 years, has ensured that it is very firmly on the map. Competing with this behemoth of a competition for viewer numbers is the Bangladesh versus England test series. Small wonder that the march of 20/20 cricket continues when even the Compulsive Hooker, as ardent England cricket fans as there can be, have been relatively uninterested in the ongoing test match. It follows then that if we aren’t interested, then really there is only one competition that your average neutral cricket fan would be watching.

Realistically a test series involving Bangladesh or Pakistan was the only option for the ICC’s future tours program if the series was scheduled as the same time as the IPL. The Indian franchises for many reasons showed an aversion, mainly political, to signing Pakistani players and unfortunately the Bangladeshi’s simply aren’t good enough to excite the viewing public in India. Now it is important to note that we believe the more cricket Bangladesh play, the better they will become and this will only be a good thing for world cricket. Yet the timing of this series, coming as it does alongside the IPL, is unfortunate as it simply does not have enough of a competitive edge to be interesting to the average fan.

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For all that, the Compulsive Hooker has been almost totally unmoved by the IPL. Regular readers will know of our worries regarding the shorter form of the game and what it might mean for test cricket, yet this is not to say that we do not like 20/20 cricket. We do. We are interested to see how the English players go, with particular reference to Eoin Morgan, Michael Lumb and one or two others such as Owais Shah. We were also suitably astounded by Yusuf Pathan’s extraordinary display of hitting 2 nights ago, scoring a hundred from only 37 balls (and his team still lost). Shane Warne said that it was the greatest innings he had ever seen, which is some praise when you consider some of the gems players like Lara or Tendulkar have had to play against the Aussies over the last 2 decades.

As a whole however, we have come to realise that essentially the competition is simply another domestic cup and these days is not even unique on the types of players it attracts. Australia’s Big Bash competition and the English 20/20 cup are similar in that both attract international stars for their respective durations. (Virender Sehwag has just signed for Northamptonshire which is quite a coup for them and should raise interest levels in that part of the world massively when he plays). Once everyone else around the world realises this too too, cricket will (we hope) return to some sort of normality although irritating as Lalit Modi is, you have to admire him for making the IPL seem more important than almost everything else.

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Moving to Chittagong and England’s slow but steady progress in putting the Bangladeshi challenge to bed, we have been fairly underwhelmed by the fare on offer. It is true that England are not at full strength, and it is also true that Bangladesh are, well, Bangladesh. Yet being a fully paid up member of the ‘Bangladesh aren’t that bad, give them a chance’ camp we had hoped for more. We have laid a few thoughts out below, both bad and good (there has been some..):

Bad

Captaincy: The level of captaincy from both Cook and Shakib has been pretty desperate on occasions over the last few days beginning with Shakib’s decision to bowl first on a flat wicket. This was reinforced by some bizarre fields set and bowling changes although Cook, it must be said, was no better when he got his turn. Why, when you are 599 runs ahead you don’t have more than a couple of slips, or in Bangladesh’s second innings with a target of 500 plus you need 2 sweepers, I don’t know.

Shakib: Shakib Al Hasan is rated as one of the worlds leading all rounders, and judging by his stats you have to say rightly so. In our desire to see improvement, we hoped that Bangladesh had a true star on their hands, sadly though we have been disappointed by his performance. He appears to be a fairly innocuous looking, non turning spinner, more Paul Harris than Bishen Bedi which by itself is disappointing. His batting did show glimpses of talent but sadly he was not present long enough in either innings to really show it off. (To be fair to him he did get a poor decision second time round).

Imran Kayes: How does a man who averages less than 14 in test cricket after 11 tests, still get the opening berth? He looks like a walking wicket against the short ball despite all his recent successes in one day cricket.

Jonathan Trott: He is looking less and less like a test match number 3 batsman. Plus he is also incredibly irritating to watch.

Michael Carberry: Likely to retain his place but was not the fluent player reported from the England A tours of the last year or so. Seems also to have an ability to dive over the ball at cover…..

Good

Mushfiqur Rahim: The diminutive keeper has been in fine form with the bat and gloves all game. A fighting 79 in the first innings has been followed by a still unfinished 47 not out in the second. He also reached a 1000 runs in test cricket during this innings and is proving to be one of the potential gems of this team.

Tamim Iqbal: Far and away the classiest batsman Bangladesh possess, Iqbal provides a constant source of runs which when you are batting with the likes of Aftab Ahmed and Imran Kayes is more than crucial.

Final day tomorrow, our prediction is a win by 235 runs just after lunch with a sudden collapse in the Bangladeshi tail.

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One final thing. We overheard a particularly nauseating American man talking to another man of indeterminate nationality over the weekend. He was holding court on the brilliance of the IPL and how great it was that the Indians have revolutionised the game.

Fine so far.

It was when he started stridently declaiming that ‘the English have never known what they were doing’ and ‘didn’t understand how to make the game popular, 5 days? That’s a lifetime, no one wants to watch that’, that we started to itch.

Continuing and expanding on his theme he betrayed his lack of knowledge admitting he had been introduced to the game only a few days previously. When we gently tried to intersperse about the joys of test cricket, the twists and turns and the reasons why this form of cricket alone is a true test of a players skill; he brashly told us ‘of course you don’t understand, you’re English, what do you know’ that we wanted to punch him.

We didn’t of course, yet it did give us an extra and irrational reason to dislike the IPL. So for that – we thank him!





Morgan’s Magic and Opening Woes

3 03 2010

Morgan showing off his reverse sweep

Over recent years, England have had one or two players come through and look like they are the real deal right from the off. Yesterday Eoin Morgan confirmed, after showing several glimpses of his capabilities since his debut last Summer, that he was the next in this particular line although true to recent form, he is also only English through qualification!

Morgan is not the first and certainly will not be the last Irishman to qualify for England (unless Ireland’s unlikely test match status dream is realised), but is already looking like the best. Yesterday he rescued England from what would have been an ignominious defeat to current wooden spoon holders Bangladesh, by scoring a perfectly paced 110 off  104 balls. Admittedly he enjoyed a little luck early on with a couple of LBW shouts being turned down, which on another day may have been given, yet he took advantage and thereafter played a flawless innings.

With Morgan it is the unorthodox nature and sheer variety of his shots which stand out initially, although truth be told he is equally adept hitting straight and conventionally down the ground. Importantly he is also not just a nurdler in the Neil Fairbrother mode (good at that though he is), but is also able to hit enormously powerfully. During the recent one day series in South Africa (we think it was at Centurion Park) he hit one of the biggest sixes we have ever seen, hooking Dale Steyn out of the ground and into the roof of the building next to it.

Above all, however, he appears to be a calm player, comfortable in big match situations. We realise that this game was against Bangladesh and to any doubters might not have been a stringent enough test to be hailing England’s next great player. Yet he has finished several games, both ODI and 20/20, in his short England career already and has earned comparisons with Australia’s master finisher Michael Bevan.

For our money at the Compulsive Hooker, we would like to see him follow the Marcus Trescothick route in to the test team. Remember when the Somerset opener was picked he was averaging less than 35 in first class cricket (Morgan averages 36 with 6 hundred’s) and was called into the one day series against Zimbabwe having impressed Duncan Fletcher with his temperament. He never looked back and with Morgan’s status as a talented, flexible and big game player confirmed yesterday, we want him added to the test squad and making his début sooner rather than later.

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What seems to be England’s 43rd different opening pair in the past year are also struggling although not in the way we expected. Cook has belied his reputation and scored a couple of valuable 60’s in the past two games, indeed he even hit a six yesterday – an event which was deemed more unlikely than the raising of the Titanic until yesterday. At the other end Kieswetter, who had been hailed as the answer to England’s search for a powerful opening batsmen, failed for the second time in 2 games. Indeed his shot to get out yesterday was reminiscent of Denly’s dismissal in the recent 20/20 against Pakistan, albeit he was caught at slip rather than bowled, as he advanced down the track trying to force the pace.

All is not lost however as he does appear to be a lucky batsman and this is not to be underrated one little bit. There are players who never appear to be dropped and others that seem to be giving catching practise yet don’t get out. Kieswetter has been dropped in every innings he has played so far for England or England Lions (in his 143 against the Board XI he was dropped a scarcely creditable 5 times) and usually he has capitalised. He has probably earned a couple more games at the top of the order without runs, but he will be aware that with Denly, Lumb and the unlucky Trott in the wings, not to mention Strauss, he has to score runs soon to nail down his place in the side.

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Bangladesh showed an admirable level of fight and almost pulled off what would have been a historic and first win for them. It is surely only a matter of time before they start winning regularly and on this form we would back them against the West Indies, Zimbabwe and probably Pakistan. Jamie Siddon’s, the Bangladeshi coach, has been talking about the need for regular ‘performances’, as with these will start coming wins.

Shakib Al Hasan underlined his status as a world class bowler yesterday with a superb spell including 2 maidens and 3 wickets, and Rahim and Kayes also underlined their promise. Factor in Shakib’s ability and burgeoning record with the bat as well, Iqbal and Mahmudullah’s recent form and suddenly you have an outfit which whilst still prone to catastrophic collapses, should run England closer than they think or will be comfortable with in the test series.








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