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by Rob Johnston Thursday 6 October 2016
Whatever your opinion of the decision of Eoin Morgan and Alex Hales to miss the tour of Bangladesh for security reasons, it has given the upcoming three match One-Day International series some extra sub-plots.
Ben Duckett proved his undoubted talent for the England Lions during the summer and it will be fascinating to see how he fares at number three for the senior side as it will be to see James Vince and potentially Sam Billings get some more international game time. The leadership style of interim captain Jos Buttler will also be intriguing.
Not that Bangladesh are a team against which England can afford to experiment and take lightly. Perhaps on tours gone by this may have been the case but the improvement of the hosts, the sweltering heat and alien conditions England will face and an embarrassing defeat in the last World Cup should focus the visitor’s minds.
Bangladesh are battle hardened too after a recent three match series against the ever improving Afghanistan. Some indifferent performances in that 2-1 series win, particularly in the batting department, suggest improvement needs to be made but it should also have the effect of blowing the cobwebs away.
In their own backyard Bangladesh are a tough proposition and they have won their last six home ODI series. Their key man is all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, ranked the third best ODI bowler in the world and a vital cog in their batting order at number four. Opener Tamim Iqbal scored 218 runs against Afghanistan and will attempt to get the home side off to a fast start with the bat alongside Imrul Kayes who made a century against England in a warm-up game this week.
Whilst the Dhaka pitch is expected to be slow, Bangladesh have serious pace in the form of 21 year-old Taskin Ahmed. Ahmed has taken 28 wickets in his 17 ODIs to date and will pose a different set of questions for the England batsmen than those of the four spinners - Al Hasan, Mosaddek Hossain, Mosharraf Hossain and Mahmudullah – expected to be in the final eleven.
It will be a new look top order for the visitors. As well as the inclusion of Duckett, England have left Joe Root at home for the one-day series which will give an opportunity to Vince to open as he did in the warm-up win. For the Hampshire captain it is a chance to reconfirm his international credentials after being dropped from the Test squad after a poor summer.
There were good returns for Buttler and Moeen Ali with the bat and Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes with the ball against a Bangladesh Select XI but Adil Rashid was expensive and Liam Plunkett and Stokes both struggled with cramp in the suffocating conditions. With rain forecast, it is likely that England will pick the extra seamer rather than turn to the left-arm spin of Liam Dawson.
Buttler’s captaincy will be interesting to watch both tactically and temperamentally. As an undemonstrative character, it is unlikely we will see Buttler screaming and shouting but a calm head under pressure, a strength he has shown many times with the bat, is often vital in the subcontinent so he should do well. Tactically he will have to marshal the spin of Ali and Rashid well in the middle overs.
It is unusual for England to play a one-day series before a set of Test matches so some pointers as to the make-up of England’s five-day line-up may be gleaned too. Some good returns for Duckett could see him force his way ahead of Haseeb Hameed as Alastair Cook’s partner and Buttler is not far away from a return to the Test side either. With Gareth Batty and Zafar Ansari in the Test squad, Rashid will have to show some form in the one-day games to cement his place too.
For now though, the focus is on white ball cricket. England are a vastly improved side in one-day cricket since the last meeting between the sides at the World Cup. They are confident and in-form and enter the series as slight favourites despite the home side’s recent record. There’s no doubt Bangladesh will push them hard and are a fine team in their home conditions. It should be an interesting series alright.