Bangladesh-England ODI Series Preview
England begin their tour of Bangladesh with the first of three One-Day Internationals on Sunday (28th February) in Mirpur, and despite the absence of Andrew Strauss and James Anderson, they are expected to win comfortably.
That is a fair reflection of the recent form of both sides as well as their standing in the game and it is worth noting that Bangladesh have beaten every full ICC member in a One-Day International or Twenty20 International except England.
The big talking point ahead of the tour has been the decision of Andrew Strauss to take a break ahead of a busy year for England, which culminates in the tour to Australia where they will attempt to retain the Ashes. Alastair Cook takes over as skipper while Paul Collingwood has been named as his deputy in Bangladesh.
Strauss's place at the top of the order will likely be taken by Craig Kieswetter, but if England persist with Matthew Prior behind the stumps, Joe Denly could still hold on to his place.
Kieswetter's emergence as a genuine rival to both Denly and Prior could give the England players a boost; a wake-up call if you like, and prevent any complacency setting in - given that Michael Lumb continues to show impressive form for the Lions, it is not as if options for England are thin on the ground.
Another man who has made an impact already is Ajmal Shahzad, the Yorkshire fast bowler, effectively picked as James Anderson's replacement in the squad. By taking two wickets in his first over of international cricket, he has made the world sit up and take notice and it will be fascinating to see, if he is given a chance on the low, slow wickets of Bangladesh, how he goes. If he takes wickets, then he will force himself into the reckoning for future tours.
Bangladesh do not possess the strength in depth that England are blessed with but they have decided to drop Mohamamad Ashraful and Roqibul Hasan - no matter who you are, lack of runs at the top level will cost you your place and it is an alarming fall from grace for former captain Ashraful. Bangladesh fans will be desperate that time away from the spotlight can help him get his game back in order.
There should also be a welcome return to action for Mashrafe Mortaza, the pace spearhead who Bangladesh have badly missed since he suffered a knee injury in the West Indies. However, in Rubel Hossain and Shafiul Islam they have uncovered two excellent, if raw, talents and their spin stocks remain in good order with new face Suhrawadi Shuvo joining established players Shakib Al Hasan and Abdur Razzak.
The series kicks off with two matches in Mirpur on 28th February and 2nd March while Chittagong hosts the third game on 5th March.
Bangladesh: Shakib Al Hasan (captain), Mushfiqur Rahim (vice-captain), Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique, Aftab Ahmed, Mahmudullah, Naeem Islam, Suhrawadi Shuvo, Mashrafe Mortaza, Abdur Razzak, Rubel Hossain, Shadfiul Islam
England: Alastair Cook (captain), Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Joe Denly, Craig Kieswetter, Eoin Morgan, Matthew Prior, Kevin Pietersen, Liam Plunkett, Ryan Sidebottom, Ajmal Shahzad, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott, Luke Wright
Players To Watch:
Ajmal Shahzad and Mahmudullah. Shahzad has already made an impression at international level and his pace and strength should serve England well. He will also be an unknown quantity to the Bangladeshis so will have that weighing in his favour. Could potentially become the latest in a long line of quick Yorkshire bowlers to have starred for England.
Meanwhile, all-rounder Mahmudullah's star has shone brightly since his breakthrough tour of the West Indies last year. He has become a key member of both the ODI and Test squad and his confidence will be sky-high after a brilliant maiden Test century in New Zealand. And that came batting at number eight and as if Shakib didn't have enough bowling options already, he is a reliable off-spinner to boot.
Bangladesh have never beaten England in a One-Day International in eight attempts, England never winning by less than four wickets - the margin by which they won in the two sides' last meeting, in the 2007 World Cup. On that day, England made heavy weather of chasing 144 at a time when Bangladesh were on top of their game.
England to win 3-0, but expect them to have to work hard in at least one of the matches. Kieswetter, if picked, to continue his blistering recent form and to be prematurely hailed as England's answer to Adam Gilchrist.
© Cricket World 2010