Bangladesh are starting to believe the pre-match sound bites uttered by the sides touring their shores. It has become the default setting for visiting captains to praise the improvements they are starting to show, while skirting over the fact beating them remains as easy as taking jalebi from a baby. Alastair Cook, on his first trip as England captain, indulged when his side arrived in Dhaka, describing Bangladesh as an "excellent" side, despite the form-guide suggesting otherwise.
And, after Cook's side built up a formidable 434-run lead yesterday, with five second-innings wickets still available, Graeme Swann, his off-spinner, predicted it could still be tough to force a win, despite having two days in which to do it. The in-form Swann had just completed another five-wicket haul to force England into a position of power, yet had seen enough to believe victory is not a given.
"Bangladesh batted very well for an hour before lunch and an hour after lunch and that showed we are going to have our work cut out to take the last 10 wickets," said the 30-year-old spin-bowler. "That's no surprise after the one-day series. They've shown they have some very capable batsmen and some capable bowlers as well so we're not surprised that they are putting up a fight." Seemingly unburdened by having the worst record in Test cricket, the Tigers have not ruled out an outlandish run chase themselves.
Tamim Iqbal, their opening batsman, personifies the positive approach which they maintain in spite of their problems. He followed up a fine one-day international series with 86 runs in the first innings, and is eying more second time around in Chittagong. "It's tough to say how many runs you can chase here," said Iqbal. "They already have a lead of around 430 runs and I think they will declare the innings with around a 500-run lead.
"We are mentally strong now and we know we have to perform in our second innings. We scored more than 400 runs in the fourth innings in a Test match against Sri Lanka in Dhaka so who knows? "We are not conceding defeat yet, because we know if someone can play an extraordinary innings anything is possible in cricket." Cook may be new to the captaincy, but he is up to speed with England's now accepted mode of refusing to enforce the follow-on when they get the chance. When the hosts finally fell for 296, England held a substantial lead, but Cook opted instead to let his batsmen have another go and rest his four-man attack. The results were mixed, as they stumbled to 131 for five by the close, their progress checked by the left-arm spin duo, Abdur Razzaq and Shakib al Hasan.
Kevin Pietersen recently cautioned that "someone was going to pay" when he emerged from his fallow period. It looked like this might be the day when he delivered on that warning, as he set off at Twenty20 pace. However, Bangladesh escaped his full wrath, as he fell for 32, which he reached in a mere 25 balls. He batted like his mind was already at the Indian Premier League, and the franchises will be busy scouring their ranks for left-arm spin-bowlers. Pietersen's blind-spot against southpaw twirlers resurfaced again when he was trapped lbw by Hasan, the home captain.
email@example.com Bangladesh v England, Day Four, 6.30am start, Neo Cricket