In a team containing six batsmen, going on seven, one practice prevails above all. It is that they all assume that one of the other five, or six, will come up with the goods. This, like seeking loopholes in tax payments, is less an evasion than an avoidance of responsibility, legally acceptable but morally dubious.
Take England yesterday. On a benign pitch with a Bangladesh attack to match, any one of them might have scored a hundred or more. Indeed, it is the flagship policy of the summer for the captain, Andrew Strauss, that the batsmen should go on to score big hundreds. Some small ones for everybody, it is beginning to occur, might do initially.
The day's top scorer was Ian Bell, who might yet go on to three figures, but although he was as usual extremely pleasing to the eye, he rather had responsibility thrust upon him rather than grasping it to his bosom. With an average of 168 from his previous five Tests against Bangladesh, Bell had much to protect. He was unbeaten on 87 at the premature close but he had been dropped on 36 pushing at one that turned.
A total of 275 for 5 from the 83 overs allowed before bad light stopped play was hardly bountiful although the crowd, much larger than Lancashire had feared, reacted as if they were being regally entertained. There is scope for more today and England know it, for there were five partnerships of 35 or above, none more than 70. Bell and Matt Prior should be expected to add substantially to the 52 they have assembled together.
Strauss himself was as culpable as his men. Of the wickets to fall all could easily have been prevented by more careful batting. Bangladesh's attack was not wholly toothless – there was some appreciable turn in parts for their spinners – but it was not exactly menacing either. It would have filled with dread only those who fear being assaulted by candy floss. The pitch, far from being as fast as a Japanese bullet train, barely mustered the pace of George Stephenson's Rocket: it was an ordinary Test surface, neither nowt nor summat.
England awarded a cap to the Yorkshire fast bowler, Ajmal Shahzad, who took the place of the injured Tim Bresnan. It was the only change from the team that won the first Test at Lord's. He is England's 650th Test cricketer, the 41st from Yorkshire. Bangladesh, out of desperation as much as team strategy, made two amendments, dropping two hapless fast bowlers, Rubel Hossain, and Robiul Islam, and calling up a similar replacement, Shafiul Islam and a left-arm spinner, Abdur Razzak.
It was the improbable figure of Shafiul who shook England almost to the core before lunch. Doing little more than keeping it straight and moving it a little but late, on a pitch that was mildly disappointing after the praise that was heaped on it in the preliminary speechifying, he suddenly looked dangerous.
Strauss had been imperious and determined against the other new-ball bowler, Shahadat Hossain, flaying him for three fours in an over. But he pushed forward a trifle lazily at Shafiul and found himself snaffled at second slip. Jonathan Trott, double centurion at Lord's and, it has transpired, the recipient of a rap across the knuckles from the match referee for the time he takes to settle at the crease, was not around long enough to displease anyone.
Propping half-forward to Shafiul he left a gap which the ball sneaked through and bowled him off his pads. Perhaps Trott will simply have to take that extra 30 seconds before he goes into his crouch, though what is going through his mind nobody knows.
Before lunch, England had lost Alastair Cook, who will soon find himself in the position of needing runs and needing them soon. Cook took four fours from the first 22 balls he faced and none from the next 35 before he nicked Razzak's first ball to slip, a simple error against a simple ball.
For almost an hour after lunch, Kevin Pietersen was resplendent as England took the view that there was nothing for it but to dismantle the Bangladesh attack. He hit it here, he hit it there, but before he could hit it everywhere he sashayed down the track and saw the ball from Shakib al-Hasan whistle past the outside edge of his bat. Mushfiqur Rahim had time to go on holiday before executing the stumping.
When Pietersen is long retired, his trait of getting out with a piece of daftness when apparently set will seem most endearing. How we will laugh. At present it can only be hoped he plans to kick the habit. Sometimes, Pietersen bats as though he has other matters on his mind, but he really ought to have gone on and on yesterday.
Then there was Eoin Morgan, the hunch selection in the side, and a hunch which had a lot of adherents. Morgan was again a model of denial, playing none of the fancy stuff which has taken him to glory in the one-day game. But it is still one-day cricket that is doing for him, as the sharper critics feared.
He was out at Lord's parrying one that went across him to the keeper and yesterday he slashed to gully. It needed an excellent catch by Jahurul Islam, who took off to his left, but the flaw was apparent. Morgan has had only two Test innings so far and each time has got out having got in, which is sufficient to be blackballed from the Test club if it goes on for long.
Bell and Prior saw it through. Apart from Bell's escape – Mushfiqur rose too quickly to have a chance of taking the low edge – Prior might easily have been given lbw when he was on 18 as Razzak pushed one through. There were no other alarms, the ball was still turning and Bell looked as if he was in a race against the clock to score his third hundred against Bangladesh when bad light intervened.
Key moments from the first day
11.15 Strauss, making an early statement, hits three fours in an over from Shahadat, a clip off the legs, a controlled carve through slip and pull through mid-wicket. Could be a long, long day for the tourists.
11.37 Mamhmudullah's off-spin on for the ninth over, a comment perhaps on Bangladesh's lamentable seam stocks.
11.37 Strauss plays a non-committed forward defensive to Shafiul and edges to slip where he is caught.
11.59 Trott plays half-forward to Shafiul, leaves a gap failing to cover the late movement and is bowled off his pads.
2.12 Pietersen reaches his fifty in an innings growing in authority, having hit six fours since lunch.
2.30 Pietersen, having batted like a millionaire for almost an hour, overplays his hand, running down the pitch and seeing the ball turn past his bat to offer an easy stumping opportunity.
3.05 Bell is dropped as a turning ball from Shakib takes the edge of his bat, and Mushfiqur muffs the low chance.
3.35 Bell pushes his fourth four dexterously through point to bring up his fifty, his fifth in seven innings against Bangladesh.
4.19 Morgan slashes to gully and is wonderfully caught by Jahurul after 90 minutes of vigilance to that point.
5.19 Prior survives an lbw shout to Abdur Razzak which looked to be hitting leg and might, who knows, have been given to any other country.
5.35 Bad light stops play with seven overs of the day remaining.
Old Trafford Scoreboard
Second Test (First day of five): England have scored 275 runs for five wickets; England won toss
England: First Innings
*A J Strauss c Kayes b Islam 21, 45 balls 4 fours
A N Cook c Siddique b Razzak 29, 57 balls 4 fours
I J L Trott b Islam 3, 5 balls
K P Pietersen st Rahim b Al Hasan 64, 81 balls 7 fours 1 six
I R Bell not out 87, 171 balls 9 fours 1 six
E J G Morgan c Islam b Hossain 37, 70 balls 4 fours
†M J Prior not out 21, 70 balls 2 fours
Extras (b 6, lb 4, w 2, nb 1) 13
Total (5 wkts, 83 overs) 275
Fall 1-44 (Strauss), 2-48 (Trott), 3-83 (Cook), 4-153 (Pietersen), 5-223 (Morgan).
To bat A Shahzad, G P Swann, J M Anderson, S T Finn.
Bowling S Hossain 17-2-66-1 (w1nb1) (4-0-26-0, 4-1-9-0, 5-1-15-0, 4-0-16-1), S Islam 14-2-37-2 (w1) (9-2-18-2, 4—0-17-0, 1-0-2-0), M Mahmudullah 7-1-15-0 (3-1-3-0, 4-0-12-0), S Al Hasan 24-3-80-1 (5-1-22-0, 1-0-1-0, 9-0-38-1, 9-2-19-0), A Razzak 21-3-67-1 (8-0-40-1, 4-2-5-0, 9-1-22-0).
Progress First day: 50 in 14 overs, Lunch 92-3 (Pietersen 22, Bell 5) 28 overs, 100 in 29.4 overs, 150 in 39.1 overs, 200 in 52.5 overs, Tea 215-4 (Bell 52, Morgan 33) 58 overs, 250 in 74.4 overs, Close of play 275-5 (Bell 87, Prior 21) 83 overs. Petersen 50: 73 balls, 6 fours. Bell 50: 97 balls, 4 fours, 1 six.
Bangladesh Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique, Jahurul Islam, Mohammad Ashraful, *Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah, †Mushfiqur Rahim, Shafiul Islam, Abdur Razzak, Shahadat Hossain.
Umpires B F Bowden (NZ) & E A R de Silva (S Lanka).
TV replay umpire R A Kettleborough.
Match referee A G Hurst (Aus).