Cook's smooth century puts England in control
England 374-3 Bangladesh
For England it was a day of almost unfettered joy. One more run from somewhere, anywhere and there would have been no fettering at all on the opening day of the first Test against Bangladesh.
After being invited to bat for reasons that will never be explicable if Test cricket is played for a million years (and on the day the third version of the Indian Premier League was launched the doubts about such longevity came crowding in) the tourists scored 374 for three at will. Their temporary leader, Alastair Cook, made 158 not out, the highest innings of all by an England batsman in his first match as captain.
Cook shared a third-wicket partnership of 170 with Kevin Pietersen, the side's star batsman who has been struggling mightily to live up to the billing. So far, so grand. But when Pietersen was on 99, having observed the verities and proprieties of batting as if the switch and the flamingo were the filthy outpourings of someone else's imagination, he was bowled.
Going hesitantly back when he might have been firmly forward as he had been dozens of times previously, the ball turned past his outside edge and hit off stump. It was a decent score, it was a score that signalled that he was on the road to rehabilitation but it was not the score he wanted.
The Chittagong stage was set for both these England batsmen. They have trodden more celebrated stages, those that do not necessarily have cows grazing outside the ground, but they both craved runs at the Divisional Stadium in more than usual fashion.
Their tasks were made easier by facing a side of mediocre standard, and that description could be applied only in those brief passages when Bangladesh were at their most accomplished. Asking England to bat was a monumental blunder because they had four spinners in their side and would obviously need to bowl last.
But it was not a lone defect. The bowling, whether seam or spin, was of too low a standard to meet what should be the requirements of Test cricket. The longer form of the game is fighting for its life against the easy delights of the IPL and its various cousins, and this sort of exhibition will not help it to prosper.
The International Cricket Council and members cannot keep paying lip service to their treasured status of full membership. When the Bangladesh coach, Jamie Siddons, can say on the eve of an important match, that many of his players cannot afford bats, something is rotten in the state of the game. Not that this could or should have bothered Cook and Pietersen yesterday.
Cook was desperate to show that the captaincy, albeit at a formative stage, would not affect his batting which has been in marvellous order on this tour. He had insisted before the match that he had come to feel more relaxed about the whole adventure in the past week or so. His elation at reaching his century was so boundless that it was possible to wonder what he might do were he to score the hundred that clinched the Ashes.
Pietersen was also desperate for runs simply because they had virtually run out. He must have begun to think that they were something from his past and he had practised in the days leading up to the match with fervour remarkable even by his high standards of preparation. Failure would have been unfair and unthinkable.
Each of them was helped in their quest by an uncommonly ordinary attack. England lost their first two wickets either side of lunch. They had sprung a surprise – which had actually been sprung the night before doubtless much to the annoyance of team management – by naming opening batsman Michael Carberry and fast bowler Steve Finn as debutants but had overlooked the off spin of James Tredwell.
Carberry started off with a few vintage strokes through the cover, punishing anything which erred in length. But he was lbw badly misjudging a sweep shot. Jonathan Trott began uncertainly but was much more settled when he was caught behind off a short ball which he had not expected.
There was some debate about whether it grazed the bat on its way to his helmet and thence to wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim's gloves, and Trott was clearly with the motion that it had not. He stood his ground for longer than any umpire would have liked and then bashed with his bat an innocent plastic chair that was standing on the boundary. This at least brought together the two protagonists who most wanted to see. Cook set off in a manner which suggested he had a century and nothing else on his mind. Pietersen was of like disposition and it is difficult to recall any Test innings where his bat had been quite so vertical throughout.
Cook struck two sixes, as many as in his Test career hitherto, the second of which was fashioned with a slog sweep and took him to his 11th Test hundred. Four previous England batsmen had made hundreds in their maiden Test match as captain: Andrew Strauss, Allan Lamb, Archie MacLaren and Pietersen himself. These days, it seems, it is quite the fashion. By the end of the day, Cook's was the highest and he had 14 fours to boot.
Pietersen was inordinately careful throughout though there were a few vintage straight hits right out of the screws, bringing him a handful of his 15 fours and a six. In the nineties he was utterly determined, picking up singles. But Abdur Razzak, one of the breed of left-arm spin merchants who have come to haunt him, induced late doubt. He was fettered.
First day: England have scored 374 runs for three wickets
Bangladesh won toss
England First Innings
*A Cook not out: 158
244 balls 14 fours 2 sixes
M Carberry lbw b Mahmudullah: 30
51 balls 6 fours
J Trott c Rahim b Hossain: 39
77 balls 3 fours
K Pietersen b Razzak: 99
135 balls 15 fours 1 six
P Collingwood not out: 32
40 balls 5 fours
Extras (b 4, lb 3, w 2, nb 7): 16
Total (3 wkts, 90 overs): 374
Fall: 1-72 (Carberry), 2-149 (Trott), 3-319 (Pietersen).
To Bat: I R Bell, †M J Prior, S C J Broad, G P Swann, T T Bresnan, S T Finn.
Bowling: S Hossain 12-2-50-0 (w2nb20, R Hossain 13-0-79-1 (nb5), S Al Hasan 21-2-80-0, N Islam 11-1-38-0, M Mahmudullah 14-1-45-1, A Razzak 17-1-71-1, A Ahmed 1-0-2-0,T Iqbal 1-0-2-0.
First day Progress: 50 in 13.0 overs, 100 in 27.5 overs, Lunch 104-1 (Cook 55, Trott 13) 30.0 overs, 150 in 40.2 overs, 200 in 51.2 overs, Tea 243-2 (Cook 113, Pietersen 51) 59.0 overs, 250 in 59.5 overs, 300 in 70.4 overs, 350 in 84.1 overs.
Bangladesh: Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique, Aftab Ahmed, Mahmudullah, *Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, †Naeem Islam, Abdur Razzak, Rubel Hossain, Shahadat Hossain.
Umpires: A L Hill (NZ) & R J Tucker (Aus)
TV replay umpire : Enamul Haque (Bangl)
Match referee: JJ Crowe (NZ)
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