Cook's tour ends on a high despite captaincy doubts

Bangladesh 419 & 285 England 496 & 209-1 <i>(England win by nine wickets)</i>
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The Independent Online

In the end, it was as routine as a Dhaka traffic jam. England avoided unnecessary snarl-ups and won the second Test against Bangladesh by nine wickets yesterday to confirm a 2-0 series victory.

This is what everybody expected and if there was a turn-up it was that it took them until after tea on the final day. There were ten overs left when the temporary captain, Alastair Cook, completed what by then were the formalities by whipping a ball through the leg side for his 11th boundary in an undefeated 109.

It was Cook's second century in two matches and if it is too early to report that his batting thrives on the burden of leadership it has certainly not suffered. Cook, who made 173 in the equally substantial victory (by 181 runs) in Chittagong, was overlooked as man of the series.

The award went to Graeme Swann, who took 16 wickets over the two matches, which to nobody's benefit, advantage or interest were both played on the sort of pitches that were so lifeless that they could, perversely, kill Test cricket.

England won despite the pitches and themselves, assisted by opponents who still possess neither the discipline nor the talent to endure four innings over five days. Bangladesh are improving and their aggregate score in the second Test of 704 runs (419 and 285), their highest in 66 matches, provided tangible evidence of that. But in these conditions their first-innings total was 100 runs or so short of being enough to worry the tourists. There was enough time left for England to take their time.

Occasionally yesterday it seemed as if a draw was eminently possible. Shakib-al-Hasan, man of the match, thoroughly deserved a hundred after starting the day on 27. He ran out of partners eventually as England determinedly worked their way through the four wickets they needed.

Another 20 minutes batting would have pushed England to the limit. But realistic hopes of that ended when Naeem Islam played an ungainly slog to mid-on. "It was a stupid shot and it cost us the game," Shakib said with a candour that only the most powerful of captains can exhibit.

It was not quite true but it was certainly inapposite for the occasion. Hasan, four short of his second Test hundred, on his 23rd birthday, eventually gave up the ghost by careering down the wicket to James Tredwell to supply Matt Prior with his third Test stumping.

The spinners took 12 of the 20 opposition wickets, six apiece, and if Tredwell never plays another Test, which is eminently possible, he can look back on a job well done. Swann did not bowl as well as the world's second-ranked bowler ought but he was limited in his options. England's chase went without alarm although Jonathan Trott's dismissal to a run-out was frankly a disgrace. He should not have been dispatched simply because the slow motion replay at no point showed him out of his ground with the stumps broken. The third umpire was simply wrong and, while human error is inevitable by officials on the field, it is less acceptable in the replay box.

Cook and Kevin Pietersen romped to victory, sharing an unbroken partnership of 167. The captain was the more measured, mowing and cutting, and only Sachin Tendulkar has scored more Test runs at a younger age than Cook's 4138 at 25 years and 89 days old. He is limited but he recognises it.

Whether he is the natural successor to Andrew Strauss as captain is unclear. Cook was content to play unimaginative, sometimes unthoughtful cricket which better sides would have punished more unsparingly. His field placings were not always acute, sometimes they were too cute and he tended to drift a little.

He blamed the surfaces yesterday because they hardly rewarded inspiration and he was right to some extent. There was only so much a captain could have done. He was also astute enough to recognise his deficiencies.

"There are a few areas in the dressing room where I need to get better but they will have to stay behind closed doors," said Cook, England's fifth youngest captain and the youngest for 30 years. Swann said in his usual jocular manner that Cook had been outstanding but that he tended to be distracted during team talks because the captain gabbled.

Swann, who knows a thing or two about gabbling, may have been joshing but then again he may also have spoken a deeper truth. There was no overwhelming indication of natural leadership or tactical astuteness in Cook – but he came to this country and won all five internationals while scoring two hundreds.

England's bowling was not incisive but it appears to be responding to different circumstances. The batsmen could hardly fail. The selectors, however, have hardly covered themselves in glory and their annual appraisals should be intriguing. The teams in both the one-day and Test series contained players not picked in the original squads: Craig Kieswetter in the limited-overs matches, Steve Finn and Tim Bresnan in the Tests. Three men picked in the Test squad, Ajmal Shahzad, Liam Plunkett and Luke Wright were leap-frogged in a way that demeaned the selectors and their art. Next time any of them talks of a player, or indeed picks him, it might be wise to see what Andy Flower, the team's coach, reckons.

England won convincingly but the truth is that they could have done that with any permutation while stuck in a rickshaw moving nowhere.

Bangladesh or bust: Who flourished and who flopped on tour

Winners

Tim Bresnan

Yorkshire all-rounder who was on his way to being pigeon-holed as a one-day player. Clearly admired by coach Andy Flower, which helps, and has the virtue of endless perseverance.

Ian Bell

Dropped a year ago, his place is now assured for the foreseeable future. Looks to be a complete batsman in terms of application and style which Australia next winter may confirm.

Graeme Swann

Man of the Series in Bangladesh following two Man of the Match awards in South Africa, his career and life have been transformed.

Losers

Jonathan Trott

Unfair dismissal on last day of the series summed up a grotesque winter for a man more vulnerable than he might care to admit and who cares almost too much.

Liam Plunkett

Picked (or rather re-selected) with such high hopes after a superb season for Durham, he was sidelined and overlooked all tour and never had a chance to show what he has learnt.

Stuart Broad

Injured, tired, grumpy, under-achieving Broad needs a decent lay-off to restore his zest and enjoyment.

Stephen Brenkley

Scoreboard from Dhaka

Dhaka (Final day of five) England beat Bangladesh by nine wickets; Bangladesh won toss

Bangladesh: First Innings 419 (Iqbal 85, Mahmudullah 59, Islam 59no, Islam 53, Swann 4-114)

England: First Innings 496 (Bell 138, Bresnan 91, Trott 64, Prior 62, Al Hasan 4-124, Razzak 3-132)

Bangladesh: Second Innings Overnight: 172-6 (Tamim Iqbal 52)

*S Al Hasan st Prior b Tredwell 96, 191 balls 11 fours

S Islam c Trott b Tredwell 28, 49 balls 6 fours

N Islam c Pietersen b Tredwell 3, 26 balls

A Razzak lbw b Finn 8, 22 balls 1 four

R Hossain not out 0, 3 balls

Extras (lb 3, w 5) 8

Total (102 overs) 285

Fall: 1-23 (Kayes), 2-86 (Iqbal), 3-110 (Siddique), 4-130 (Mahmudullah), 5-156 (Islam), 6-169 (Rahim), 7-232 (Islam), 8-258 (Islam), 9-275 (Razzak), 10-285 (Al Hasan).

Bowling: S Broad 16-2-72-2 (7-2-28-1, 4-0-9-1, 5-0-35-0), T Bresnan 13-2-34-1 (w1) (2-1-5-0, 7-1-16-1, 4-0-13-0), J Tredwell 34-8-82-4 (23-7-59-1, 11-1-23-3), S Finn 9-3-21-1 (3-1-9-0, 4-1-8-0, 2-1-4-1), G Swann 30-6-73-2 (9-3-24-1, 9-3-14-1, 6-0-24-0, 6-0-11-0).

Final day Progress: Close of Play 172-6 (Al Hasan 25, Shafiul Islam 0) 68.0 overs, 200 in 76.0 overs, 250 in 85.4 overs, Lunch 275-9 (Al Hasan 86) 100.3 overs. Shakib Al Hasan 50: 114 balls, 5 fours.

England: Second Innings

*A Cook not out 109, 156 balls 11 fours

J Trott run out (Islam) 19, 30 balls 2 fours

K Pietersen not out 74, 79 balls 9 fours 1 six

Extras (b 2, lb 4, nb 1) 7

Total (1 wkt, 44 overs) 209

Fall: 1-42 (Trott).

Did not bat: P D Collingwood, I R Bell, †M J Prior, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, G P Swann, J C Tredwell, S T Finn.

Bowling: S Islam 6-0-22-0 (one spell), A Razzak 15-0-67-0 (9-0-35-0, 6-0-32-0), S Al Hasan 8-0-31-0 (5-0-17-0, 1-0-3-0, 2-0-11-0), M Mahmudullah 7-1-38-0 (3-0-10-0, 4-1-28-0), R Hossain 4-0-26-0 (nb1) (1-0-2-0, 3-0-24-0), N Islam 4-0-19-0 (one spell).

Final day Progress: 50 in 14.2 overs, Tea 95-1 (Cook 46, Pietersen 24) 25.0 overs, 100 in 26.4 overs, 150 in 34.2 overs, 200 in 43.2 overs.

Cook 50: 92 balls, 5 fours, Pietersen 50: 55 balls, 6 fours, Cook 100: 151 balls, 10 fours.

Umpires: A L Hill (NZ) & R J Tucker (Aus)

TV replay umpire : Nadir Shah (Bangl)

Match referee: J J Crowe (NZ)

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