Tea England 244 and 100 for 0 (Duckett 56*, Cook 39*) need a further 173 to beat Bangladesh 220 and 296 (Imrul 78, Rashid 4-52)
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Ben Duckett started England’s run-chase with intent © Getty Images
England’s openers put on a century stand to give themselves an excellent chance of chasing down a target of 273 to win the Mirpur Test. Bangladesh had pushed their overnight position on to a creditable 296 before being dismissed shortly after lunch but Ben Duckett, in particular, took the attack to home spinners to lift English hopes of a rousing finish.
At tea, Duckett and Alastair Cook had knocked exactly 100 off the target with by far their best opening partnership of the tour and laid the perfect platform for what would be England’s highest successful chase in Asia.
Cook and his latest partner had a previous best of 26 together and, given England’s propensity to go from one to three down in short order, it was a timely and significant improvement. Duckett went to his maiden Test fifty, from just 61 deliveries, with a swept four and he brought up the hundred with a fierce pull of Mehedi Hasan’s next ball to further quieten a nervous crowd, who had gathered hoping to see Bangladesh’s first Test win over England.
The scores in each innings so far have gone progressively higher and the Mirpur surface had perhaps slowed a touch – although there was now variable bounce to contend with – but Duckett and Cook both made their first significant batting contributions of the series. Duckett’s penchant for the reverse-sweep was well known in domestic circles but he unwrapped it for the citizens of Dhaka in the fourth over of the innings, striking back-to-back boundaries off Shakib Al Hasan.
There were one or two misjudgements, as was to be expected against a probing spin attack, but Duckett survived to reach his half-century shortly before tea. Mehedi caused him the most problems, a top edge from a cut bursting through the hands of slip when Duckett had 12, while the fielder running in from deep cover could not get his hands under a wild slice on 44.
Having been well placed on 152 for 3 at the start of the day, Bangladesh’s batsmen resolved to play positively – a measure of how difficult it was for Cook to control the scoring was an overall rate of 4.42 – and succeeded in almost doubling their score. Ben Stokes and Adil Rashid claimed six of the seven wickets to fall and, although Bangladesh managed to stave off an outright collapse, the last four went down for 28 to keep the target below 300.
Shakib rode his luck to make 41, Shuvagata Hom chipped in with an unbeaten 25 and England knew they would have to eclipse their 2010 chase of 209 – still the highest on the ground – in order to secure victory and the series.
A chaotic morning session had seen four wickets fall, as many catches go down, a couple of reviews wasted and 116 runs added to the Bangladesh total. No batsman was able to survive for long but by the lunch interval the lead was approaching 250, as English tempers began to fray.
Stokes was at the centre of trying to lift England but his approach seemed to draw comment from the umpires, who approached Cook to try and calm things down. Stokes was unhappy at Sabbir Rahman advancing down the pitch, salted by a pair of boundaries through the off side, and his frustration mounted after England lost their second review seeking a caught-behind decision against Bangladesh’s No. 7.
Sabbir eventually fell to the last ball of the session, lbw to Rashid, after a brisk partnership with Shuvagata that again repelled England after they had chiselled out Shakib and Mushfiqur Rahim in successive overs.
England created chances from the outset but Bangladesh’s batsmen kept pushing the scoreboard on. Imrul Kayes swept and nudged to add 48 with Shakib inside the first hour and although the wickets did eventually come, England’s hopes of running through the middle and lower order for a second time in the match were stilled.
Imrul’s half-century held Bangladesh together on the second evening and he had two let-offs before finally falling for 78. In the sixth over of the morning, with Imrul on 67, a leg-side flick off Zafar Ansari went quickly to the right of Cook at leg slip and the England captain could only palm it away; then on 74, a simpler chance off the bowling of Moeen Ali was put down by Joe Root, going one-handed to his right at slip. Root had recovered enough from a bout of illness to take his place on the field but was perhaps not at his most alert.
The Bangladesh opener fell shortly after, lbw to Moeen attempting to sweep, and Shakib might have been stumped in the following over, charging at Ansari, only for the ball to explode off the pitch and clear Jonny Bairstow’s right shoulder. Ansari should certainly have had Shakib’s wicket on 23 when a slog-sweep picked out Duckett at deep midwicket but he made a complete hash of the catch.
Mushfiqur survived a chance off Ansari, too, with Steven Finn only able to get fingertips on a mistimed chip running back at mid-off. England’s use of technology was also erratic, failing with one DRS attempt against Mushfiqur – Ansari’s delivery pitching outside leg – but opting not to review a pair of lbw appeals from Moeen’s bowling, against Shakib and Mushfiqur, that would likely have been overturned.
Shakib’s innings was finally cut short on 41 as Rashid ripped a legbreak in from round the wicket, the batsman playing on as he tried to cut. In the following over, Stokes had Mushfiqur taken at slip but by then the lead was above 200 and England’s task on a surface that continued to assist spin bowling was looking a daunting one.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo