Cook warming to the task of captaincy
As starts go, this was the batting equivalent of a juicy, half-tracker from a teenaged debutant. Nevertheless, Alastair Cook will not be complaining, as he racked up his first win as England captain in convincing fashion against Bangladesh yesterday. England's hierarchy are using this tour of Test cricket's weakest nation as a chance to plan for the future, meaning the Essex opener is serving as Andrew Strauss's locum as captain.
The strategy has hardly met with universal acclaim, but Cook could not have done any more than has been asked of him so far. He followed up two facile wins in warm-up matches with a six-wicket triumph in the opening one-day international in Dhaka, to which he contributed a breezy 64 of his own. It was never likely to have been as taxing as his first effort in England colours. Due to an injury to the incumbent, Paul Collingwood, Cook only had three hours to prepare the first time he wore the armband. On that occasion, England proceeded to haemorrhage more runs than they ever had before in a Twenty20 match, against South Africa before Christmas.
He put that down to inexperience, and was far better prepared this time around. Riding a wave of excitement surrounding the debut of Craig Kieswetter, the bright young batting hope who impressed on the tour of the UAE last month, England were dominant. Cook might even have surprised himself as he outscored his new opening partner, Kieswetter, as the captain enjoyed perhaps his most fluent display with the bat in the blue of the limited-overs side.
When he departed, he was quickly followed by Kevin Pietersen but England's stutter was only brief as Collingwood, the nominal vice-captain on this tour, marshalled the chase neatly. By the time the tourists passed the victory mark of 229, Collingwood had an unbeaten 75 to his name. In the lead up, England had made the typical noises about guarding against complacency against an "excellent" side, as Cook deemed Bangladesh.
The truth may be a little different, but some players in the home side at least proved they are up to the task. For so long, Mohammed Ashraful, the pint-sized batting whizzkid, was supposed to be the man best placed to lead the Bangladeshis to where they want to be. However, his career has stalled to the extent he is not even in the squad for this series. While he has been treading water, others have advanced. Shakib al Hasan, their captain and all-rounder, who will became the first Bangladeshi to play county cricket later this summer, is now their leading light.
Tamim Iqbal, the lusty-hitting opener, has also been busy carving out a reputation for himself, and he added another noteworthy entry against England, reaching a fine century in 94 balls. En route to his hundred, he did his best to dispel the accepted wisdom that batsmen from the subcontinent are susceptible against short-pitched bowling. Most memorably, he hit Stuart Broad for two fours and a six in an over that eventually cost the bowler 18.
Iqbal is still only 20, yet has played more than 70 one-day matches for his country. He is probably best known for a half-century which contributed to India's exit from the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, but this effort announced him to a new audience. However, he was deprived support of any substance, due mainly to the continued excellence of Graeme Swann, the off-spinner who was man-of-the-series in the T20s against Pakistan in Dubai last week, who took three wickets.
England 229-4 in 46 overs (Alastair Cook 64, Paul Collingwood not out 75; Naeem Islam 3-49) Bangladesh 228 all out in 45.4 overs (Tamim Iqbal 125; Graeme Swann 3-32, Stuart Broad 2-46).
Published: March 1, 2010 04:00 AM