To get a job done properly you may as well do it yourself. So it was that Andrew Strauss, faced with the possibility of losing a one-day series to Bangladesh, having just beaten Australia, strode out and struck 154 from 140 balls, an innings which ensured England victory in the final match of the NatWest series – by 144 runs.
Any doubts about Strauss’s ability to bat with sufficient urgency for the modern 50-over game have been banished since he has resumed the captaincy this summer. He has enhanced his one-day game. In his 99 innings for England before this summer he had hit 10 sixes. In this season’s ODIs he has already hit eight more. Five of them came today as he struck the ball into a sizeable crowd as well as the wasteland that is Edgbaston’s building site.
“I’ve been hitting the ball really well throughout the one-dayers without translating it into big scores and I was very determined to do that today,” he said. “You can still improve. All of us are trying to do that. There is a lot of errors we can still improve on but it’s exciting to be part of the squad at the moment.”
Strauss’s chief ally was Jonathan Trott, who hit 110 from 121 balls, his first one-day century for England. These two added 250 together, which is the highest one-day partnership by any English pair. With Ravi Bopara racing to 45 from 16 balls, four of which were stroked for six, England amassed 347 for seven, a target large enough to daunt better sides than Bangladesh. So England can win when batting first – indeed it can often be easier to do it that way round – a fact that should not be lost on Strauss and his think-tank.
England, though, would have been justified in choosing to bowl if they had won the toss. When the covers were removed after early-morning rain the pitch was green, the clouds were low and any captain – not just Strauss – would have chosen to bowl when the game started, 45 minutes late, at 11.30am.
Mashrafe Mortaza penetrated Craig Kieswetter’s all-too-inviting gate in the first over and the England batsmen anticipated a struggle. From Mortaza’s end batting was never easy but the other two Bangladesh seamers let their captain down. Shafiul Islam, heroic down in Bristol, was completely out of kilter. His first over cost 11, whereupon he was taken off, and by the time the innings was completed he had conceded 97 from nine overs. Rubel Hossain was not much better. Both Mortaza’s pace bowling companions bowled too short too often.
Curiously the verdant nature of the pitch may have helped England’s batsmen. With an early wicket lost and the ball jagging around dangerously – if propelled in the right direction – the batsmen were duty bound to be watchful and to see off the new ball in time-honoured fashion. Strauss and Trott batted like old pros for 15 overs, playing everything by merit.
Mortaza in exasperation had to bowl eight consecutive overs in an attempt to exploit the conditions or at least retain control. But soon he had to use his two spinners in tandem even though these were not spin-friendly conditions. Only then did Strauss and Trott seek to elaborate. Out came a few deft reverse-sweeps but the overriding impression of Strauss’s batting in particular was the power of his strokeplay. Now the old plodder seems to have acquired a special bat and the confidence to swing it in an easy arc. The ball is flying to and beyond the boundary.
Trott was more relaxed than at Bristol and scored faster. His judgment of the length of the ball was excellent. Several times he punched the ball to the mid-wicket boundary off the Bangladeshi left-arm spinners with superb timing and placement. As ever there were not too many frills or flourishes from him.
But there were several from Bopara, who made us wonder why he is not a regular in England’s side and whether he might offer more than Luke Wright. Fifty came from the last 18 balls, 28 of which were plundered from Shafiul’s final over.
Bangladesh required 150 from Tamim Iqbal to have an outside chance. He fell 134 short, the victim of a clever slower ball from Ajmal Shahzad, and the rest of the game was something of a formality. Shahzad was lively again, though he did suffer a strain in his hamstring and had to leave the field, as did Paul Collingwood with a buttock strain.
Stuart Broad bowled with real hostility, eager to bully lowly opponents, which suggested that his period of “strengthening and conditioning” has been worthwhile. His usual partner, – in Test cricket at least – James Anderson, was omitted. Apparently he was “rotated”. It is quite an event for an England cricketer to be dropped.
Meanwhile Bopara, revelling in his late call-up, picked up four wickets as the Bangladesh innings began to disintegrate. Their disarray was encapsulated by the dismissal of Shakib al Hasan, who was run-out off a no-ball.
Strauss, man of the match and the series, acknowledged that his team are still not as consistent as they should be, but this was “better than Bristol”.
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