England deserved to beat Bangladesh in the First Test here, but their performance was nowhere near as convincing as the seven-wicket margin suggests. Until Friday evening, when umpire Ashoka de Silva wrongly gave Javed Omer out leg before, the match was in the balance. Bangladesh were 127 runs ahead with five wickets in hand, and Michael Vaughan was running out of options as he tried to keep his two-cylinder attack firing.
Without Stephen Harmison and Matthew Hoggard, who bowled themselves to a standstill in conditions as unsympathetic as any they will experience, the possible result does not bear thinking about.
Showing all the attributes you want in fast bowlers, the pair fully deserve the plaudits which will come their way. Marcus Trescothick scored an excellent century in England's first innings, and Vaughan looked back at his best during an unbeaten 81 in the second, but it was the bowlers who prevented an upset.
Harmison's match figures of 9 for 79 in 46.5 overs rightly won him the man-of-the-match award, but the steadying influence of Hoggard cannot be underestimated. On a pitch which was supposed to favour spin bowling, the pair took 16 for 182 in 96.5 overs. The remainder of England's attack took 4 for 256.
On his third tour to these parts Hoggard should have a pretty good idea of how to bowl in Asia, but this was Harmison's first taste of conditions as far removed from Durham as is possible. The 25-year-old has talked of the importance of bowling here to his development, but it is too early - and Bangladesh are too weak - to say he has cracked it. This was, however, his most impressive performance in an England shirt.
"It's been a tough old game and I feel about six inches shorter now," the delighted Harmison said. "I am very happy to have taken wickets on a pitch that does not suit me, but Matthew was excellent. We bowled for each other and it worked well."
Vaughan was full of praise for the pair: "Full credit should go to Matthew and Steve for the way they bowled," he said. "In that heat and humidity and on a placid pitch, the wickets they picked up were a testament to the hard work they have put in."
In a strange way the conditions actually helped both Harmison and Hoggard. On bouncy pitches where the ball is seaming and swinging, much is expected of fast bowlers, who, in an effort to make the most of things, can forget the basics and attempt to bowl too many different deliveries. Out here you have little to work with, so your gameplan becomes simple.
Bowling without those expectations, and without a captain constantly telling him to "rough the batsman up", will help Harmison perfect his basic skills and increase the chance of him becoming England's Curtly Ambrose.
Because of the nature of pitches in Asia, it is the spinners who are under pressure, and England now have a major dilemma before Wednesday's Second Test in Chittagong. The surface there will again encourage thoughts of two slow bowlers, but after 72 unproductive overs from Gareth Batty and Ashley Giles here a third seamer - Richard Johnson - must play.
Rikki Clarke will not forget his Test debut. His fine of £2,750, for using obscene and offensive language to Mushfiqur Rahman on Friday seems a bit steep when the behaviour of others is considered, and he is a gifted young player who should be persevered with.
The International Cricket Council are right to stamp down on poor behaviour, but if this becomes the norm playing cricket will prove an uneconomic way of earning a living for the likes of Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.
Harmison did not bowl as well in the second innings as the first, but it was he who got England off to a perfect start on the final morning when he trapped Khaled Mahmud plumb in front. Four overs later the lanky paceman, who has a slight side-strain, claimed his ninth victim of the match when Mohammad Rafique edged a loose drive through to Chris Read.
Hoggard was not concerned about letting Harmison have a first 10-wicket haul; all he wanted was some reward for his own efforts. Running in hard and bowling aggressively, he produced a superb leg-cutter to dismiss Mushrafe Mortaza and a nip-backer to get rid of Enamul Haque. It took England 42 minutes to clean up the Bangladeshis for 10 extra runs.
Chasing small targets is never easy, because the fielding side have nothing to lose. A good start is vital, and this is just what Vaughan and Trescothick gave England. With the floodlights on and heavy clouds surrounding the ground, England's openers needed to show urgency before the heavens opened.
Therequirements appeared to bring the best out of Vaughan. For once he did not have time to fret over the position of his head or the movement of his feet. And the old fluency returned. The loss of Tres-cothick and Mark Butcher failed to perturb the captain, whose 115-ball innings was laced with exquisite strokes.
The best were drives through midwicket from the left-arm spin of Rafique and Haque, two bowlers who proved that this pitch was not devoid of turn and bounce. They were not the strokes of a man who is out of form.
Bangladesh won toss
Bangladesh - First Innings 203 (Khaled Mashud 51, S J Harmison 5-35)
England - First Innings 295 (M E Trescothick 113, G P Thorpe 64)
Bangladesh - Second Innings (Overnight 245-6)
Mushfiqur Rahman not out 46
Khaled Mahmud lbw b Harmison 18
Mohammad Rafique c Read b Harmison 1
Mashrafe Mortaza c Trescothick b Hoggard 1
Enamul Haque Jnr lbw b Hoggard 0
Extras (lb10, nb3, pen 5) 18
Total (445 min, 107 overs) 255
Fall (contd): 7-248 (Khaled Mahmud), 8-254 (Mohammad Rafique), 9-255 (Mashrafe Mortaza), 10-255 (Enamul Haque Jnr)
Bowling: Hoggard 27-11-48-4 (5-0-15-0, 5-2-10-0, 4-3-5-1, 8-2-15-1, 5-4-3-2); Harmison 25-8-44-4 (nb3) (7-1-16-1, 3-0-7-0, 4-1-8-1, 2-2-0-0, 4-2-5-0, 1-0-5-0, 4-2-3-2); Batty 20-2-65-1 (9-1-32-0, 7-0-27-1, 3-0-6-0, 1-1-0-0); Giles 20-4-52-1 (3-0-10-0, 2-0-9-0, 12-4-24-1, 3-0-9-0); Clarke 15-6-31-0 (6-2-14-0, 8-4-14-0, 1-0-3-0).
England - Second Innings
M E Trescothick st Khaled Mashud b Mohammad Rafique 27
M P Vaughan not out 81
M A Butcher lbw b Mohammad Rafique 8
N Hussain lbw b Mashrafe Mortaza 17
G P Thorpe not out 18
Extras (b1, lb6, w1, nb5) 13
Total (for 3, 166 min, 39.2 overs) 164
Fall: 1-64 (Trescothick), 2-86 (Butcher), 3-128 (Hussain)
Bowling: Mashrafe Mortaza 11-2-46-1 (nb4, w1) (5-1-23-0, 2-0-7-0, 4-1-16-1); Mushfiqur Rahman 3-1-11-0 (nb1); Khaled Mahmud 3-1-14-0 (one spell each); Mohammad Rafique 13.2-0-57-2 (9-0-35-2, 4.2-0-22-0); Enamul Haque Jnr 7-0-27-0; Rajin Saleh 2-0-2-0 (one spell each).
Vaughan 50: 113 min, 83 balls, 6 fours.
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and E A R de Silva (Sri Lanka).
Match referee: Wasim Raja (Pakistan). TV replay umpire: A F M Akhtaruddin (Bangladesh).
England win by 7 wickets. Man of the match: S J Harmison.Reuse content