Sunday, June 6, 2010

More brilliance from Tamim Iqbal

Tamim Iqbal followed up his dauntless effort at Lords with another century, the fourth of his short but burgeoning career, in the second test match between England and Bangladesh, yesterday at Old Trafford. Batting first, England aided by a cultured century from Ian Bell posted 419 runs in their first innings, a total, which seemed merely modest when Tamim was flaying away, but proved commendable at the end of the second day due to a combination of fine bowling from Graeme Swann and pitiful batting by the rest of the Bangladeshi line-up.

Having elected to bat first in unusually bright Mancunian conditions, England saw a lot of their batsmen get starts, but only the perennially maligned Bell, reached three figures. A splendid knock, it was too, as it always seems to be, when Bell makes runs. An innings compiled with patience and grace was undone on 128, only courtesy a superb delivery from the Bangladeshi skipper, Shakib Al Hasan. Shakib, a left arm orthodox spinner, normally tends to reply on drift and craft and not so much turn, as he displayed with the dismissal of Pieterson, earlier in the innings, when the latter was beaten in the flight and stumped on 64, but the delivery to rid Bell, having drifted inwards, spun viciously past the outside edge to hit the top of the off stump. Bell’s ousting, trailed by Prior’s ill-chosen reverse sweep, when he was on 93, brought England’s innings to a quick close, with Shakib picking up the seventh five wicket haul of his career.

Bangladesh’s openers Tamim and Imrul Kayes strode out confidently and once again provided their team with a solid start. The new ball was wasted by a mixture of needless short-pitched bowling and overly defensive fields set by England, which Tamim in particular, exploited with typical rigour. This hundred in my eyes was even better than the one that he scored at Lords, for it required a greater sense of application. The swashbuckling cuts and pulls were no doubt in evidence, but England’s decision to pepper him with bouncers, with three men out on the leg side boundary and a forward short leg, meant that Tamim needed to show greater judiciousness in his stroke-play. Choosing to duck under the bouncers, rather than play the hook shot, which had him dismissed at Lords in the second innings, Tamim certainly exhibited the required prudence, without compromising on his natural run scoring ability by sending the loose deliveries with an overbearing sense of authority to the boundary boards.

The hundred was also not quite brought about in the cavalier manner with which it was attained at Lords. Although he did indulge in a few swipes in the 90s, for the most part, a sense of calm seemed to prevail. Having shown the necessary patience, the ton was finally reached with a powerful cut shot for four off a wide delivery from Swann. After reaching the three figure mark, Tamim, much like he did in the first test, seemed to lose his focus and an array of infelicitous strokes followed, leading to him finally being caught behind off James Anderson on 108. There is much to be admired in the southpaw’s batting, particularly in the ferociousness of his hitting, which is made to look ridiculously easy at times. However, it is crucial that he finds the ability to convert his scores into big hundreds, much like Virender Sehwag has, whose relentlessly destructive batting has seen him notch up several scores in excess of 150.

Once Tamim was dismissed, Bangladesh crumbled without a hint of a struggle. Such a crying shame, for Tamim’s heroics certainly deserved greater support from the rest of the batting line-up who proved toothless, in spite of possessing the talent. Swann who had gone wicket-less in the first test match and who had seemed suitably tame when bowling to Tamim, returned to his match winning elements that was abundantly in evidence in the series’ preceding the ongoing one, getting good purchase and spin out of a dry surface and ending up with figures of 5/76. Ajmal Shahzad, making his England debut, suffered from nerves when bowling to Tamim, but returned to bowl with pace and purpose, first having Ashraful caught off a wide delivery and then bowling Mahmadullah and Shafiul Islam with fast and full deliveries.

England have the option of asking Bangladesh to bat again, a choice which they would have had a night to ponder over. With their bowlers well rested, it is likely that they will enforce the follow-on, which certainly suits me fine, for Tamim will once again be at the crease come 10:00 GMT.

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