Moeen leads charmed life after Mehedi stuns England

Tea England 173 for 5 (Moeen 61*, Bairstow 26*) v Bangladesh
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‘Bangladesh have a lopsided team’

Moeen Ali led a charmed life to revive England’s fortunes on the first day in Chittagong, after the 18-year-old debutant, Mehedi Hasan, had ripped through their top-order to give Bangladesh the upper hand in the opening exchanges of the first Test.

By tea, England had reached 173 for 5 in 62 overs on a lively surface offering both turn and variable bounce to Bangladesh’s arsenal of slow bowlers. Moeen, promoted to No.5 at the head of England’s allrounder-laden middle-order, had made 61 from 153 balls, but had survived five DRS reviews before he had reached his half-century, including three in six balls either side of lunch.

Alongside him, Jonny Bairstow was bedding in on 26 not out, in a sixth-wicket stand of 67 that had helped to settle England’s nerves after the loss of two big wickets in the course of the afternoon – Joe Root, who had counterattacked exquisitely in the morning session but fell to his second ball after lunch for 40, and Ben Stokes, who was late reacting to a big ripper from Shakib Al Hasan that bowled him through the gate for 18.

The star of the show, however, was Mehedi, the teenage offspinner who was one of three debutants in Bangladesh’s ranks, alongside the batsman Sabbir Rahman, and Kamrul Islam Rabbi, a quick bowler. Bowling with purpose and purchase, Hasan was thrown the ball for the second over of the match and responded to the responsibility with three wickets in his first 11 overs of international cricket.

First in his sights was his fellow newcomer, Ben 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 in his first nine deliveries by Mehedi, 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 in defence.

At the other end, Alastair Cook initially looked his usual unflustered self as he bedded into his first competitive innings of the trip, having missed the warm-ups to attend the birth of his second daughter. But facing up to 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 stumps as he over-balanced and, as the bails hit the turf, so too did his backside. 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.

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 brushed pad first and would have demolished middle and leg, and England’s innings was in disarray.

Root, inevitably, 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 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.

Another hour of the same after the break, and England might have been out of sight. Instead, Mehedi returned to launch a new spell, and instantly outfoxed one of England’s most accomplished players of spin. After drawing Root into a first-ball cover-drive, he slid his next ball straight on, grazing the edge of the bat and nestling in the hands of slip, via a deflection off the wicketkeeper’s knee.

The session was only eight balls old, but already it had featured three apparent wickets, as Moeen – who had been reprieved by a successful lbw review in Shakib’s final over of the morning – astonishingly survived two further raised fingers from umpire Kumar Dharmasena in his first four balls of the resumption. The first was shown to have been missing leg stump; the second struck his pad outside the line. And, having already encouraged Bangladesh to use one of their own reviews earlier in his innings, he survived their second attempt on 29, when Mehedi’s lbw appeal was shown to have pitched outside leg.

Bangladesh didn’t help themselves in the field either, with Bairstow surviving a clear opportunity at slip on 13, when he pushed uncertainly forward against the left-arm spin of Taijul Islam. By the interval he had doubled his score to help settle England’s jittery innings.

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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