In a melodramatic declaration this weekend a stark warning was issued about the irreversible demise of Test cricket – and it became clear yesterday what the England and Wales Cricket Board was getting at.
Much more of the sort of stuff on offer during most of the second day of the second Test here in Dhaka and the longer game will sacrifice itself on the altar of tedium with nobody watching or caring. The ECB was referring to the intention to show future Ashes series on free-to-air television which, it claims, will cost the game £143m in broadcasting rights from Sky and lead to catastrophe. But it would hardly matter if Test cricket was shown on every channel and closed-circuit screen in the country if England approach matches as they did in the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium. Viewing figures would go through the floor.
Greater initiative has been shown by the Royle Family than England demonstrated as they responded to Bangladesh's upbeat 419 all out, their third-highest Test innings.
The tourists' rationale was that they wanted to avoid mistakes on another crummy pitch against accurate left-arm spin, build a substantial lead cautiously and then see how the match panned out. But it was hard to avoid the conclusion that their first objective was the prevention of defeat, not the pursuit of victory, and this against a side they had beaten in all 16 previous international encounters. Bangladesh have shown pluck and gumption in the last four days of Test cricket – the final two days in Chittagong and the first two here in Dhaka – but they remain the least accomplished side in Test cricket by the length of a Dhaka rickshaw ride. Still, when they left the field yesterday they will have been dreaming of their first authentic Test victory.
After Bangladesh illuminated the morning by adding a further 89 runs for their last two wickets in 23 overs, England made 171 for 3 from 64, a rate of scoring designed to petrify onlookers. This eventually represented something of an acceleration since the first hundred came at fewer than two runs an over.
What passed for an innings highlight came in the form of Kevin Pietersen becoming the 19th England player to have scored 5,000 Test runs. The 45 he required to reach the landmark took 99 balls, a third less than his usual rate. The surface, easy to stay in on but difficult to score on, was largely at fault but the lack of boldness was hard to understand. Perhaps Pietersen was overcompensating for all those occasions he has been derided for being too audacious.
Pietersen was dismissed by Shakib-al-Hasan's left-arm spin just as he was upping the ante despite being denied anything like full value for his drives. Shortly after, Paul Collingwood was beaten by some genuine reverse swing of the kind England talk about but rarely produce at such an extreme, and the score was 107 for 3. There were scant few other alarms before the close and about a similar amount of enterprise. Shakib and his fellow left-armer bowled 43 overs and conceded 95 runs.
Jonathan Trott, who opened the innings with Alastair Cook after England reverted to a five-man bowling attack and dropped Michael Carberry, could have proceeded more solemnly only in a funeral march. He took 33 balls to get off the mark, one fewer than Tamim Iqbal, his counterpart in the Bangladesh side, took to reach his fifty on the first morning.
When Trott reached his own half-century, a clinically diligent affair which would have been more at home in a laboratory than a cricket pitch, he had used 147 balls. By that stage in an innings Tamim might have been challenging the world record score.
The day was a qualified mess for England from the start. They needed two wickets to end the Bangladesh innings but displayed no inclination to take either. Between them, the improbable trio of Naeem Islam, Shafiul Islam and Rubel Hossain had a merry old time. As Nos 8, 10 and 11 they are doubtless the players their coach, Jamie Siddons, had in mind when he said that many of the team did not have their own bats.
Since they were tail-enders it was hardly a surprise to see runs being squeezed down to third man, a position that remained unfilled for 90 minutes while nine fours went in that direction. There were fielders on the leg side when it seemed pretty obvious that the batsmen were often trying to drive the ball on the off side.
If Alastair Cook, the captain, noticed, he decided to overlook it. Somebody should have advised him – and, as England have taken to having drinks breaks as often as they can to try to keep dehydration at bay, a message could presumably have been sent out.
Stuart Broad, who started the morning, looked particularly lethargic and this has not been the happiest of trips for him. Since his outstanding bowling in Durban, which was significant in helping England take a lead in their series against South Africa, he has played three and a half Test matches and taken eight wickets at more than 50 runs each.
Shafiul's 53 took 51 balls before Tim Bresnan produced one that was edged behind. Graeme Swann finally finished the innings before lunch with his fourth wicket, Naeem being left unbeaten.
England lost Cook to a slog sweep held at midwicket. If it was ill executed, it had the merit of intent, which was not true of much else that followed.
Scoreboard: Sher-e-Bangla Stadium
Second Test (second day of five): England trail Bangladesh by 248 runs with seven first-innings wickets left
Bangladesh won toss
BANGLADESH First Innings
N Islam not out......... 59
172 balls 8 fours
S Islam c Prior b Bresnan......... 53
51 balls 11 fours
R Hossain c Prior b Swann......... 17
22 balls 4 fours
Extras (b 1, lb 10, nb 2)......... 13
Total (117.1 overs)......... 419
Fall: 1-53 (Kayes), 2-119 (Iqbal), 3-122 (Islam), 4-167 (Siddique), 5-226 (Mahmudullah), 6-254 (Al Hasan), 7-301 (Rahim), 8-314 (Razzak), 9-388 (Islam), 10-419 (Hossain).
Bowling: S Broad 18-5-69-1 (nb1) (6-1-21-1, 2-1-12-0, 3-1-5-0, 3-1-10-0, 4-1-21-0), T Bresnan 21-7-57-2 (3-0-23-0, 5-1-11-0, 5-3-6-1, 8-3-17-1), G Swann 36.1-5-114-4 (12-0-55-1, 11-3-24-1, 3-1-6-0, 4-0-9-1, 5-1-18-0, 1.1-0-2-1), S Finn 10-2-61-1 (nb1) (2-0-22-0, 3-1-21-1, 2-1-1-0, 3-0-17-0), J Tredwell 31-5-99-2 (17-3-54-1, 10-2-28-1, 2-0-3-0, 2-0-14-0), P Collingwood 1-0-8-0 (one spell).
Second day progress: 350 in 98.2 overs, 400 in 111.3 overs. S Islam 50: 47 balls, 11 fours; N Islam 50: 150 balls, 6 fours.
ENGLAND First Innings
*A N Cook c Kayes b Razzak......... 21
J Trott not out......... 64
187 balls 7 fours
K P Pietersen c Kayes b Al Hasan......... 45
99 balls 6 fours
P D Collingwood lbw b Hossain......... 0
I R Bell not out......... 25
52 balls 3 fours
Extras (b 5, lb 8, nb 3)......... 16
Total (for 3, 64 overs)......... 171
Fall: 1-29 (Cook), 2-105 (Pietersen), 3-107 (Collingwood).
To bat: †M J Prior, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, G P Swann, J C Tredwell, S T Finn.
Bowling: S Islam 6-2-13-0 (1-0-1-0, 4-1-12-0, 1-1-0-0), A Razzak 19-3-69-1 (14-3-41-1, 4-0-24-0, 1-0-4-0), S Al Hasan 24-14-26-1 (1-1-0-0, 23-13-26-1), M Mahmudullah 4-1-8-0 (1-1-0-0, 3-0-8-0), R Hossain 10-0-37-1 (nb3) (8-0-32-1, 2-0-5-0), N Islam 1-0-5-0 (one spell).
Second day progress: Lunch 4-0 (Cook 4, Trott 0) 5.0 overs, 50 in 24.2 overs, Tea 92-1 (Trott 28, Pietersen 35) 34.0 overs, 100 in 37.4 overs, 150 in 57.2 overs. Trott 50: 147 balls, 6 fours.
Umpires: A L Hill (NZ) & R J Tucker (Aus).
TV replay umpire: Nadir Shah (Bangla).Reuse content