Youngsters offer up gifts to give Bangladesh lift

Northants 149-5 Bangladesh
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The Independent Online

Bangladesh's cricketers are used to rain. Dhaka, the capital city, sits in a monsoon zone at the top of the Bay of Bengal, where more than six feet of precipitation falls each year. It is the cold that they do not like. And yesterday, in their final warm-up match before the first Test against England, Bangladesh did not appear to be relishing the biting westerly that blew across here.

Bangladesh's cricketers are used to rain. Dhaka, the capital city, sits in a monsoon zone at the top of the Bay of Bengal, where more than six feet of precipitation falls each year. It is the cold that they do not like. And yesterday, in their final warm-up match before the first Test against England, Bangladesh did not appear to be relishing the biting westerly that blew across here.

Lord's will not be a heaving cauldron on Thursday morning, when the tourists walk out to play their inaugural Test match in England, but the atmosphere will be somewhat different to that which they experienced in Northampton. Touring sides enjoy easing their way into a Test series, but it was difficult to see how Bangladesh could have benefited from this workout.

Two hundred schoolchildren doubled the crowd, and in the 34.1 overs of play possible, Northamptonshire's batsmen played as though they too were being picked up at the gates at 3.30pm. Following their innings defeat against Sussex, the confidence of the Bangladesh side was in desperate need of a boost, and they would have been grateful for the five wickets they were given on a slow, ugly looking pitch.

Northamptonshire, like Sussex, filled their side with second XI players, and their pragmatic South African coach Kepler Wessels would not have enjoyed watching his youngsters waste an opportunity to impress in first-class cricket.

The one exception was Bilal Shafayat, who scored a classy 76 before holing out to long-off.

In 2001, Shafayat, at 16 years 360 days, became the youngest player to represent Nottinghamshire, and after scoring 72 on his first-class debut he was tipped for the top. But the runs dried up, and in 2004 he played only one Championship match.

This persuaded him to join Northamptonshire, where he has begun to flourish. Yesterday's innings contained several wristy drives down the ground and a couple of powerful slaps through the covers. His fifty came off 71 balls and he looked set for a third hundred of the season when he top-edged at the left-arm spin of Enamul Haque Jnr.

Anwar Hossain Monir, with three wickets, was Bangladesh's most successful bowler. The medium pacer nipped one through the leaky defence of Tom Huggins in his second over, and returned in his second spell to claim the wickets of Tim Roberts and Riki Wessels. However, in between, the seamer bowled a fair amount of dross, and these wickets are unlikely to gain him selection for Lord's.

Bangladesh, surprisingly, decided to rest three of their more impressive players. Habibul Bashar, the captain, is still recovering from a blow to the head which required stitches at Hove, but the fast bowlers Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and Shahadat Hossain would only have benefited from another game.

"I feel that bowlers can pick their form up quicker than batters and we do not want to risk injury to either of them," Dav Whatmore, the Bangladesh coach, said. "We intend to save them up and build them up on the weights."

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