All-round Stokes regain control for England

England 293 (Moeen 68, Bairstow 52, Mehedi 6-80) and 108 for 5 (Stokes 33*, Bairstow 17*) lead Bangladesh 248 (Tamim 78, Mushfiqur 48, Stokes 4-26) by 153 runs
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Ben Stokes followed his wickets with a vital innings © AFP

Ben Stokes came to England’s rescue twice in as many sessions – first with the ball, and then with the bat – as a thrilling Test match hurtled towards a fourth-innings shootout on the third afternoon in Chittagong.

By tea, England had extended a precious 45-run first-innings lead to an overall advantage of 153, but they had lost five wickets in the process, all of them to Bangladesh’s front-line spin trio of Shakib Al Hasan, Mehedi Hasan and Taijul Islam, who found sharp turn and variable bounce on an increasingly capricious surface.

And Stokes, who had started his day’s work with a supreme spell of reverse swing to help pluck out Bangladesh’s last five wickets for 27 runs, was 33 not out from 79 balls at the break – a doughty display of patience and controlled aggression that featured two fours and a sweep for six over deep square leg, as he played largely off the back foot to give himself time to react to the vagaries of the pitch.

Alongside him was Jonny Bairstow, who had been no less judicious in his shot selection to reach 17 from 43 in a vital sixth-wicket stand of 46 in 15.5 overs. It was almost exclusively a trial by spin – the first sight of seam from Bangladesh came in the 42nd over of the innings, when Kamrul Islam Rabbi was given an exploratory over before the interval, but Stokes greeted him with a slap through the covers for four to bring a probable swift end to that experiment.

After coming out to bat in the second hour of the morning, England’s openers, Alastair Cook and Ben Duckett, launched their innings with some intent, showing good footwork and a willingness to rotate the strike. But then Mehedi, the star of the first innings, slid through a quicker one that turned just enough to demand a defensive prod from Cook, and he was gone for 12, caught at slip by Mahmudullah.

One over later, England had lost the second of their two stand-out players of spin. Looking to keep the runs flowing, Joe Root dropped to one knee in an attempt to sweep against Shakib, only to be pinned plumb in front of middle and leg – an optimistic review couldn’t save his bacon. And right on the stroke of lunch, Bangladesh made it three wickets for two runs in 20 balls, when Duckett lobbed a catch to short leg as he propped forward to Shakib.

After the break, England’s fortunes didn’t exactly rally. Gary Ballance hung around as best he could, but with Bangladesh offering a cramped line of attack into his pads, with a cordon of close catchers on the leg side, he looked an accident waiting to happen. Sure enough, on 9, he too lined up a sweep against Taijul, but slapped his shot straight into the bread-basket of Imrul Kayes at leg slip, who did well to wear the ball as he fell backwards to complete the take.

Moeen Ali’s charmed life took another unexpected turn on 6, when he survived his sixth trial by TV of the match – albeit a direct referral from the umpires on this occasion – as he lobbed a catch to Mominul Haque at short leg that was ruled a dead-ball after deflecting off the fielder’s helmet.

But Moeen’s luck ran out on 14 when he too fell to the sweep shot – a long-levered reach from outside off that bobbled off an under-edge, onto his pad, and back up to the wicketkeeper via his glove.

England at that stage were 62 for 5 – an awkward lead of 107 – with an hour of the session still to come. But Stokes and Bairstow steadied the innings with skill and resolve, as the importance of England’s bowling successes in the morning session became abundantly clear.

And though his subsequent efforts with the ball atoned to a degree for his shot selection, it was the second-ball dismissal of Shakib that set the tone for a wicket-laden day. As their last remaining senior batsman, Shakib’s presence had been crucial if Bangladesh hoped to draw level on first innings. Instead, he came galloping down the pitch to Moeen’s second delivery of the day and was stumped by three yards by Bairstow.

Adil Rashid, who had been off the pace on the second day, persuaded the nightwatchman, Shafiul Islam, to slog a looping legbreak into the hands of Stuart Broad at mid-on for 2, and thereafter, it was over to Stokes, whose late dismissal of Mushfiqur Rahim on the second evening had been so vital in keeping England in the contest.

With the ball moving both ways seemingly at will, from over and round the wicket, Stokes was threatening left- and right-handers alike on both sides of the bat, as well as flush on the helmet, when he pinned the debutant Sabbir Rahman with a pinpoint bouncer. England rightly ignored the availability of new ball, as Stokes racked up three more wickets to complete innings figures of 4 for 26 in 14 overs, including 4 for 10 in his last ten.

Mehedi was the first of his morning’s victims, as he bent one back into his pads to trap him in front of leg, and with his tail up, Stokes extracted the last two men in the space of four balls. Sabbir was scooped up at slip by Cook, as Stokes went wider on the crease to attack the splice, before Rabbi left a straight one to have his off stump plucked out for a duck.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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