Judging BY the way Andrew Flintoff demolished Bangladesh in the first of England's three one-day internationals, he would never struggle to find employment here in Asia should his cricket career go awry. In a city famed for its ship-breaking the Lancashire all-rounder made shorter work of dismantling the home side than those unfortunate souls make of wrecking the dozens of vessels that litter the coastline. Indeed, if any of the labourers had taken the time to watch yesterday's one-sided affair they could well be tempted to turn up for work today with a cricket bat in their hand rather than a sledgehammer.
Flintoff's arrival in Bangladesh may have been delayed by a groin injury but England's most inspirational cricketer took no time at all in showing Michael Vaughan what he had been missing. In an awesome all-round display, that saw him take 4-14 in 9.4 overs and score an unbeaten 55 off 52 balls, Flintoff was comfortably the best player on the park.
While England were celebrating their seventh wicket victory Bangladesh's players would have been shocked by the aggressive manner in which Flintoff finished them off and relieved he had not been present for the Test series.
Rikki Clarke attempted to fill the huge hole left by Flintoff. This he did admirably, and at the moment England are happy to play both in one-day cricket, but the Surrey all-rounder will now realise just how much his game needs to develop if he wishes to seriously compete for Flintoff's Test place.
Once again it was difficult to judge just how well England played because of the quality of their opponents. Throughout Bangladesh's innings England's fielding was outstanding but there were spells when the bowling looked wayward. England's top three batsmen also played themselves in before throwing their wickets away to a loose shot. One-day cricket thrives on these mistakes and successful teams make far fewer than the rest.
Unbelievably, Bangladesh's innings of 143 started and finished well. Off 65-2 they were placed to post a challenging total and the last three wickets put on a respectable 77 runs. However, no side can recover from the sort of collapse witnessed here. In a remarkable 14-ball spell from Flintoff and Ashley Giles, Bangladesh lost five wickets for the addition of a solitary run.
The bowling during this period was good but the batting hopeless. Giles, looking confident for the first time on this tour, took the first wicket when Rajin Saleh top-edged a sweep at the fourth ball of the 16th over to Clarke at short fine leg. Then, on the third ball of the next over, and with the delivery after Flintoff and Chris Read had appealed for a caught behind, Hannan Sarkar gloved a pull shot through to the keeper.
When the umpire's finger went up Flintoff showed Sarkar the way to the dressing room, and he was fortunate to get away with the gesticulation.
Flintoff took England's fifth wicket two balls later when their captain, Khaled Mahmud, edged a good ball through to Read. Mahmud was booed by his own supporters at the end of the game. This series could well see the end of his reign.
With the first ball of the 18th over Giles rejoined the action and trapped Alok Kapali plum in front. Four wickets had fallen in 10 balls without a run being scored. Manjural Islam moved Bangladesh from 65 with a single but the best dismissal was saved until last.
Vaughan and Giles, whose remodelled action was allowing him to turn the ball appreciably, left the midwicket area open knowing it would tempt the batsman to work the ball into the leg side for an easy single. With the field set Mushfiqur Rahman duly obliged and sent a leading edge back towards the bowler. Giles then dived full-length to his left and took a superb one-handed catch.
On 66-7 Bangladesh were there to be taken but spirited batting from the tail took the home side past 76 - their lowest-ever one-day score.
Marcus Trescothick and Vikram Solanki began England's reply as though they had a plane to catch but both fell in consecutive balls to Rahman. England have seen enough quality innings from Trescothick to ignore the odd poor shot but Solanki desperately needs to show greater consistency. In form the 27-year-old is a glorious batsman to watch but his scores suggest he is an all-or-nothing player. The 10 runs he scored in this match mean he has now failed in seven of his last nine one-day innings for England.
"I am very satisfied with the performance," said Vaughan. "But if I am being ultra-critical, having had them on 70-7, we should have bowled them out for less than a hundred. Ideally, we would also have knocked them off without losing a wicket. However it gave Freddie [Flintoff] the chance to go out and play the way he did."