MANCHESTER // Andrew Flintoff is on course to make his return to English domestic cricket next month after training with Lancashire, his county side, last week. The England all-rounder, 32, has been based in Dubai since September as he seeks to return to fitness after a knee injury.
Initial hopes were that he could be playing again by the start of the English county season, but that deadline was abandoned in January when he had a further operation. He has been back in the UK to be assessed by his county's medical and coaching staff. "He was with us last week and had a session or two in the nets. It went well and he could be playing for us again by the end of July," said Jim Cumbes, the chief executive of Lancashire Cricket Club.
Meanwhile Jamie Siddons, the Bangladesh coach, has pinpointed fast bowling as a weakness in his side - describing their performance in the first Test at Lord's as "horrendous" - and the Australian feels young fast bowlers in his adopted country simply do not get to bowl enough overs to develop their skills to a high enough level to step up to international cricket. "The people we bring in at the moment are not quite ready," he said. "Our infrastructure is a little less organised and we have no evidence of any fast bowlers coming through. Our first-class conditions are that they bowl four or five overs then the spinners come on, so there is nowhere for them to develop.
"The opportunity for fast bowlers to bowl a lot is not there. I'm not sure why Pakistan, for example, have had such success but they definitely have more capable bowlers than us at the moment." Bangladesh's batting display in taking the first Test to a fifth day won them widespread praise, with Tamim Iqbal's century on the fourth day prompting suggestions he could make a move to an English county side.
Shakib al Hasan, the bowler and captain, will also attract attention - though he was overshadowed at Lord's by Shahadat Hossain who claimed five first-innings wickets. Siddons extolled the virtues of both players, along with Mahmudullah Riyad, said they needed the experience playing in leagues outside Bangladesh to experience the conditions they will face in international competitions. "I would have the whole team here ... our development structure is not that great," he said. "It is important for us to get them here, but we are an international team who travel and play nearly all year round. Next year there is a pretty big possibility [for players to play abroad] as we've got a free book after the World Cup [being held in February and March]." Meanwhile the coach is banking more on the spin factor and might make changes accordingly for the second Test. Shaiful Islam may come in probably at the expense of Robiul Islam. Siddons suggested " a couple of players" from the England side would be susceptible to spin without being willing to name the players he would be targeting. "We lost the First Test on the first day and there was so much pressure on our batsmen to save the game, we can't keep doing that, which is why we will make a change to the fast bowling. Shaiful will bowl in good areas and be consistent," said Siddons. "If it spins like everyone is talking about then Shakib [al Hasan] will worry the England players, when it starts to turn he is very good as his stats suggest. "If it looks like it might turn we may even play another spinner, Abdul Razzak, and put them under pressure with spin rather than pace as we had no impact at Lord's."