Earlier this week England completed the expected 2-0 test series win against minnows Bangladesh. The performances have come under criticism as many onlookers believed that England made unduly hard work to beat a side that has only 3 of their 66 tests. The time difference of the tour has made it difficult to follow but the newspapers and TV reports seem to unfairly emphasis the short-comings of the team rather than their successes. Even though the victories may not have been as convincing as many would have hoped I still believe, contrary to the opinions of many, the tour has yielded far more positives than it has negatives.
The tour comes on the back of a tough winter tour of South Africa and before a busy summer schedule as the England team then look to defend the ashes in Australia at the end of the year. The old cliché in sport remains, a team can only beat what is front of them. England did that without ever really looking in serious danger of losing, other than in the eyes of some of the more pessimistic critics.
Alastair Cook stepped up to replace the resting Strauss as captain for the tour and acquitted himself in a promising manner. He may have showed naivety in some field placing setting, especially leaking runs through third man, but this is understandable and is all part of the learning curb for the 25 year-old. He got scores of 173, 39, 21, 109(no). His ability to perform at his best with the bat while under the pressure captaincy bodes well for his and England's future. People can point the figure at some selection issues and field settings but his leadership with the bat and his first taste of test captaincy was a promising one.
The bowlers, on very flat wickets, did not make a bad account of themselves. Broad may have continued his inconsistent bowling performances but his ability to pick up key wickets and swing the bat means he does, and will continue to, warrant his place in the side. Graeme Swann, who is ranked the second best bowler in the test arena, collected the Man of the Series award as he picked up 16 wickets in the four innings. The off-spinner remains the reliable performer with the ball and his ability to constantly pick up wickets on any surface has been a remarkable and invaluable revelation over the past two years.
The less familiar face of Tim Bresnan was another solid performer in the series as the 25 year-old Yorkshireman chipped in 7 wickets and got a score of 91. His performances with bat and ball will have certainly given the selectors food for thought for the summer ahead. The conditions did not favour the pace bowlers. In a very hot and humid climate and on very flat pitches wickets were hard to come by but the work rate of the front-line seamers was admirable.
Other areas that England can be pleased with were the performances of Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell. KP hit a solid 99 in the first innings of the first test and then followed it up with an unselfish quick fire 32 as England aimed to set a declaration target. In the second test he added a 45 and 74(no). Meanwhile Bell notched up an 84, 39 and an impressive 138. Many people will be quick to point out they were facing a bowling attack that does not strike fear into any international batters on favourable wickets. They both, however, showed good patience and took large strides towards finding their form having both only returned to International cricket recently.
As for the other members of the team; Trott, Collingwood, Prior and Tredwell and Carbury. These players may not have excelled but to expect all members of the squad to shine in a two-test-series just because the opposition was Bangladesh is foolish. Bangladesh themselves continue to make progress in the test format and will benefit from opportunities to play against the other larger cricketing nations. Furthermore, in the ODIs that preceded the test series, both Craig Kieswetter and Eoin Morgan cemented their places in the England team in the shorter form of the game and this ought not to be forgotten.
Many have voiced their opinions of how Strauss should have been in Bangladesh and honoured his role as captain. This is a separate issue. For the record, I believe he ought to have gone with the team as that is part of his job description. Nevertheless, this should not overshadow the positives that can be taken from the test series, and indeed, the tour as a whole.
Conditions were not easy and Bangladesh performed better than many expected. The England batsmen who needed runs, namely Pietersen and Bell, got just that while Trott, who would have wanted to cash in on some valuable runs, was the unfortunate recipient of two harsh umpiring decisions. Cook excelled as stand-in captain and he and the team will be better for the experience. In the bowling department, Swann was excellent, again, and Bresnan made a bright start to his international career.
The tour was ultimately not just a case of 'job done'. England comfortably won the first and second tests by 181 runs and 9 wickets respectively. People, perhaps, placed too much emphasis on the opposition. As such positives were discredited because ' its only Bangladesh' and this does a disservice to both England and Bangladesh. England were expected to win 2-0 and they duly delivered with a squad which some notable absentees – Strauss, Anderson, Onions. Of course the upcoming opposition in 2010 will be tougher tests but England's tour of Bangladesh has offered far more positives than negatives ahead of them.
Thoughts, comments and opinions please...