Strauss' knock leads England to final but cracks begin to show

<preform>Bangladesh 208-7 </br> England 209-5</preform>
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The Independent Online

England win by five wickets

England win by five wickets

England yesterday secured their place in Saturday's NatWest Series final, when they will play Australia, by completing a five-wicket victory over Bangladesh. The win, which was achieved with 67 balls to spare, suggests that this was another excellent all-round performance. It was not.

England's cricket in the first 15 overs of Bangladesh's innings was shoddy, and their batting, when chasing the tourists total of 208 for 7, was at times careless.

Having routed Bangladesh five times in Test and one-day cricket this summer, England now face the far sterner challenge of the world champions. Against Australia they will be punished for making yesterday's mistakes. Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and Nazmul Hossain are about to be replaced by Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie, and the gentle turn of Mohammad Rafique is to be transformed into Shane Warne's leg-spin.

Andrew Strauss and England's acting captain, Marcus Trescothick, are the batsmen who have most enjoyed the visit of Bangladesh. Trescothick scored two big hundreds in the Tests and a century in the opening one-dayer at The Oval. Strauss, meanwhile, fell two runs short of completing a second consecutive one-day hundred against the weakest side in international cricket.

The pair gave England's reply the perfect start. Chasing Bangladesh's respectable total was never going to be too challenging, and once 99 runs were compiled in the first 15 overs it became a doddle. It was Strauss who initially took the game to the visitors, and the left-hander had some luck before he had made 20. On 14 he was dropped by Mohammad Rafique at third man, and on 16 he was fortunate to survive an appeal for lbw.

Strauss' 50 came off 51 balls and contained six fours. In comparison Trescothick seemed subdued, but this was because he had faced little of the strike. Yet it was he who hit two huge sixes into a noisy Western Terrace.

The first was bludgeoned off Nazmul and the second via a full blooded sweep at Rafique. But with another 50 in sight he attempted to dab a delivery from Manjural Islam towards third man and edged a catch to the wicketkeeper.

For the second time against Bangladesh, Andrew Flintoff was given the chance of batting practice and came in at No 3. He has struggled for form in the tournament and did not look like getting out of the rut yesterday. He struck three boundaries in his 22 but looked nervous. This was highlighted by his tactics. When confident he advances down the ground and tries to hit the spinners over their heads. Yesterday, he chose to stay in his crease and sweep, the shot that caused his downfall.

Vikram Solanki came and went, as did Kevin Pietersen, for a breezy 23, and this handed Strauss the chance to score his third one-day hundred. He needed eight of England's final 11 runs when Paul Collingwood edged a boundary and looked to reach three figures with consecutive sixes.

The scores were brought level when Strauss slogged Manjural over deep mid-wicket, but he was bowled attempting to play the same shot to the next delivery.

Bangladesh's total was built around a fine 81 from Javed Belim. The opener performed respectably during the Test series, scoring 155 runs at an average of 39.25, and this was his second half-century in the tournament. Tushar Imran gave him excellent support and the pair made the most of England's sloppy cricket.

Four difficult catches were grassed and a run-out opportunity missed, as the pair put on 70 runs in 97 balls. Simon Jones replaced the rested Stephen Harmison, and was given the new ball for the first time in one-day cricket. The Glamorgan fast bowler opened his account with four wides but it was Darren Gough who conceded more than six runs an over.

But the nature of Bangladesh's innings changed once Flintoff was brought into the attack. His first over was a maiden and he just missed out on a hat-trick when the umpire Aleem Dar turned down a loud lbw appeal. Flintoff finished with four wickets, and it deserved to win him the man of the match award. Instead, it went to Strauss.

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