England's bowlers given hot welcome by Nafis

Bangladesh A 242 v England
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The Independent Online

If the England captain, Michael Vaughan, and the coach, Duncan Fletcher, were hoping for a set of circumstances that would reveal the resolve and desire of their squad before next week's inaugural Test match against Bangladesh, they found them here yesterday.

It is not very often that a touring team look forward to a 90-minute coach journey back to their hotel at the end of a day's play, but after spending seven hours under a sweltering sun, its air conditioning would have felt glorious.

This was just the sort of work-out England needed before the serious cricket starts on Tuesday. Time spent training in the gym - of which England are doing plenty - helps, but there is no better way for a bowler to prepare than to spend a tough day out in the field on an unresponsive pitch.

England's bowlers may not have felt it at the time, as they toiled fruitlessly for long periods in humid conditions, but they may yet appreciate the innings of Nafis Iqbal.

Without the 18-year-old Nafis's mature and watchful century, Vaughan's side would probably have dismissed Bangladesh A in half the time it finally took. After the easy pickings earlier in the week against the Bangladesh Cricket Board President's XI, this would have given them a false indication of the challenges that lie ahead.

The fact that England's bowling looked innocuous once the ball had lost its hardness on this low, slow pitch - which looked like a dry river bed - is a concern, but Vaughan and Fletcher would have been delighted by the way their side persevered.

England's lack of penetration was not lost on Nafis. "England's pace bowlers were very good, but their spinners were ordinary," the confident student said. "Ashley Giles is a world-class bowler and I expected him to be more effective in this match.

"I think Bangladesh have a very good chance of beating England. They have played good cricket in the last couple of series and they are strong."

The only disappointment for Nafis, who is unavailable for the Test series against England as he is due to go to Pakistan at the weekend to captain Bangladesh Under- 19s in a tournament, is that his innings will not - and should not - be considered as first-class.

For the second match in a row, England, in order to give as many players as possible some practice, have convinced their opponents to play a 12-a-side game. Of England's 15-man squad, Martin Saggers and Geraint Jones were left out and Mark Butcher withdrew before the start of play with a throat infection.

However, it was the wicket of Nafis, who became reckless when he reached three figures and slogged the off-spin of Gareth Batty into the safe hands of Graham Thorpe at long-on, which started the collapse that allowed England to finish the day satisfied with what they had achieved.

Durham's Steve Harmison was the chief wicket-taker with three victims, and Richard Johnson took two in his first game for England in three months. But Matthew Hoggard was the most impressive of the seven bowlers used by Vaughan.

Coming into the attack after Harmison had taken two early wickets, the Yorkshireman bowled 11 disciplined overs that conceded just 19 runs. Hoggard looks certain to play in the first Test, but England's dilemma is who will join him.

DHAKA SCOREBOARD

Bangladesh A won toss

BANGLADESH A - First Innings

Nafis Iqbal c Thorpe b Batty 118

Javed Omar c Read b Harmison 0

Aftab Ahmed c Clarke b Harmison 4

*Rajin Saleh c Read b Johnson 28

Najimuddin run out 11

Fahim Muntasir c Vaughan b Giles 4

ÝGazi Sagir Hossain b Hoggard 0

Arafat Sunny c Hussain b Harmison 25

Mosaddek Hossain lbw b Collingwood 21

Alamgir Kabir c Read b Johnson 7

Tareq Aziz not out 0

Extras (b7 lb8 w3 nb6) 24

Total (88.5 overs) 242

Fall: 1-11 2-17 3-120 4-148 5-175 6-179 7-179 8-219 9-242.

Bowling: Johnson 13.5-3-35-2; Harmison 10-1-35-3; Hoggard 11-8-19-1; Clarke 11-2-34-0; Giles 21-7-52-1; Batty 17-5-47-1; Collingwood 5-3-5-1.

ENGLAND: *M P Vaughan, M E Trescothick, P D Collingwood, N Hussain, G P Thorpe, R Clarke, ÝC M W Read, G J Batty, A F Giles, R L Johnson, S J Harmison, M J Hoggard.

Umpires: A F M Akhtaruddin and Syed Mahabubullah.

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