England look set to make changes to the team which defeated Bangladesh in the first Test at Dhaka on Saturday. Throughout their seven-wicket victory Stephen Harmison and Matthew Hoggard were outstanding but Michael Vaughan's bowling attack was firing on only two cylinders. In hot, humid and unhelpful conditions the pair bowled 96.5 overs and took 16 wickets for the cost of just 182 runs. Without their input England could well have been humiliated by a team that has now lost 24 of the 25 Test matches they have played.
But a first-rate display from England's opening bowlers was undermined by the worrying lack of penetration shown by Ashley Giles and Gareth Batty on a surface which offered the Bangladesh spinners a lot of assistance. The performance of the pair, and the absence of Andrew Flintoff with a groin injury, caused the selectors to seriously rethink their plans for the second Test, which starts in Chittagong on Wednesday.
"We continue to have discussions amongst ourselves about getting the balance right," said the England coach, Duncan Fletcher. "I keep repeating that with Fred [Flintoff] in the side, the team picked itself because we could have three big lads banging it in and two spinners. Now we have to decide whether to go in with three big lads or two spinners. It is a huge decision when you look at the spinners we have got.
"We picked two spinners in the expectation they would take more wickets than they did. We hoped they would offer more at the back end of each innings. If we are to play a third seamer it will probably be at the expense of a spinner."
Because of this Giles and Batty will spend the next 48 hours worrying about who gets the tap on the shoulder from a captain bearing bad news. On current form Batty should keep his place. It was often the debutant whom England's captain turned to first rather than his most experienced bowler.
Giles' lack of success in his last seven Test matches - he has taken 10 wickets at the cost of 67 runs apiece - has caused the 30-year-old to alter his action when bowling round the wicket. The left-arm spinner is trying to straighten his run-up because his old one goes too wide of the crease.
Spin bowling is largely about angles and Giles feels that by releasing the ball from a position closer to the stumps he will not have to turn the ball as sharply to threaten the outside edge. Delivering the ball from here, rather than out on the return crease, will also stop him bowling around himself and undercutting the ball. The alteration will result in a higher action that should get the ball to drop and bounce rather than skid on, which is what too many of his deliveries currently do.
Attempting to change this is all well and good but it is dangerous in the middle of a Test series. Marcus Trescothick tinkered with his technique during last winter's tour of Australia with disastrous effects. By the end of the series he looked a broken man and he only returned to form in Test cricket at The Oval in September.
Fletcher defended Giles' decision to adjust his action on a tour. "He decided to do it here after discussions with Mike Watkinson [England's assistant coach]," Fletcher said. "It is not easy to change your action but when else do you do it? There is so little time but it needs to be done if you want to take your game forward. It takes a golfer a year to change his swing and they are just standing there and swinging at a ball. Here we have a guy who runs up and turns at right angles before bowling the ball at a batter. The decision to do it, though, is up to the individual. He has to be comfortable with it."
Giles did not have a chance to work at his game on the final morning of this keenly fought Test. With four wickets in hand and an overnight lead of 153, Bangladesh would have hoped to post England a total of 200 or more. Such dreams were short-lived when Harmison and Hoggard ripped through the tail in 42 minutes. In nine quality overs, England's target increased by just 10 runs.
Chasing 164 can be difficult if you lose early wickets but Trescothick and Vaughan made a positive start. With the floodlights on and the ground surrounded by threatening clouds, there was urgency to Vaughan's batting. With a game to win, this was not the time to worry about technique and it brought out the best in him. Vaughan failed to hit the winning run - a bye took England over the line - but this was his first half-century in a Test match since he was made captain three months ago.
The celebrations were tempered by the news that Rikki Clarke was fined half his match fee (£2,750) for using obscene and offensive language on Friday when he had an altercation with Mushfiqur Rahman.
Fletcher confirmed that Flintoff, James Anderson and James Kirtley have all passed fitness tests and would stay with the team.Reuse content