Root beds in after Mehedi stuns England

Lunch England 81 for 3 (Root 38*) v Bangladesh
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‘Bangladesh have a lopsided team’

Mehedi Hasan, Bangladesh’s 18-year-old debutant, stole the show on the first morning of the first Test at Chittagong, as England’s batsmen were served notice of the trial by spin that awaits on this winter’s tour of the subcontinent.

Bowling with purpose and purchase on a lively wicket that offered turn and variable degrees of bounce from the outset, Hasan was thrown the ball for the second over of the match and responded to the responsibility with the wickets of his fellow new boy Ben Duckett for 14 and Gary Ballance for 1.

In between whiles, Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh’s senior bowler, chipped in with the massive scalp of Alastair Cook for 4 as England slumped to 21 for 3 in the first 12 overs of the day, and had it not been for a typically serene counterattack from Joe Root, England’s lunchtime position of 81 for 3 could have been significantly more precarious.

By the break, Root was sitting pretty on 38 from 47 balls, another masterful display from a batsman whose ability to score off almost any delivery was an invaluable means of alleviating the pressure of a close-set field. Alongside him, Moeen Ali – promoted to No. 5 in an allrounder-laden middle order -was unbeaten on 17 from 53. Together, they had added 60 for England’s fourth wicket to restore some order to their innings, although Moeen was fortunate to survive after initially being given out lbw for 16. After reviewing, he was shown to have got the thinnest splinter of bat as he mistimed a sweep against Shakib.

For the first hour of the day, however, chaos reigned in England’s ranks, as Mehedi in particular made hay with the hard new ball. First in his sights was Duckett, Cook’s ninth opening partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss four years ago, who was awarded his cap by Michael Atherton before the toss, having been preferred to Haseeb Hameed at the top of the order.

Duckett had earned his chance with a brace of half-centuries in the ODI series, as well as a strong showing in England’s warm-up matches at the MA Aziz Stadium earlier this week, but he was skittish from the outset as he looked to translate his natural belligerence to the longer form. He might have been bowled twice by Mehedi in his first nine deliveries, whose well-disguised arm-ball slid past his off stump. But, having struck a brace of boundaries off the pace of Shafiul Islam, he succumbed to a big offbreak from Mehedi, that crashed into his off stump as he offered too much room on the drive.

At the other end, Cook initially looked his usual unflustered self as he bedded in for the long haul in his first competitive innings of the trip, having missed the warm-ups to attend the birth of his second daughter. But, on 4, and facing up to the senior spinner, Shakib, who was introduced in the 11th over of the innings, he dropped to one knee to sweep from outside leg, but was beaten by some extra turn and bounce. The ball looped off his forearm and crashed into his off stump as he over-balanced and as the bails hit the turf, so too did his back-side. It was an undignified departure for a man playing a record-breaking 134th Test, but Bangladesh were rightly cockahoop to have seen off the man who made 173 on this very ground six years ago.

Gary Ballance, retained in the middle order for his adhesive qualities, came and went in a flash, as he was pinned on the pad by another Mehedi delivery that ghosted in without spinning, and though the umpire was initially unmoved, Bangladesh’s captain, Mushfiqur Rahim, had no doubts. Sure enough, the ball would have demolished middle and leg, and England’s innings was in disarray.

Root, however, refused to bow to the match situation, and set about racking up his runs with the poise and judgement of a professional snooker player. In particular, he capitalised on the re-introduction of Bangladesh’s second debutant, Kamrul Islam Rabbi, whose slingy pace was not the ideal weapon for a wicket of this type. Root picked him off for four of his five boundaries, as England regained a measure of control after a torrid first hour.

One crumb of comfort for England will be that they will get to bowl last on this surface, and they have picked the right team for the conditions, with three spinners in their ranks, including Gareth Batty, whose return to Test cricket at the age of 39 was confirmed at the toss. This is his first match since Bangladesh’s maiden tour of England in 2005.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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