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Well, England drawing the two-Test series with Bangladesh was not in any script.
Bangladesh have never beaten England in Test cricket until now (Zimbabwe and West Indies were their only victories in nearly a hundred Tests) so it’s a significant milestone in their history.
To achieve some sort of perspective, according to the BBC – as I didn’t spend days immersed in scorecards from past decades – Bangladesh had lost their previous 72 Test matches.
Let’s be candid, England might even have lost 2-0 with fortunes oscillating at Chittagong before Ben Stokes delivered his trump card with the ball.
While there are clearly major alarm bells for England ahead of a tougher assignment in India from November, it’s a delightful moment for Bangladesh who hadn’t played Test cricket for over a year due to security issues.
The second Test in Dhaka lasted a mere three days with England chasing 273 and collapsing from 100-0 to 164 all out.
Mehedi Hasan took 12 wickets in the match and England lost all ten wickets in 22.5 overs in the session after tea.
So where do England go from here?
Unfortunately, they have little time to regroup and no practice matches in India to acclimatise before the first Test on November 9 against the top-ranked Test nation on their home patch.
Many are predicting the visitors will suffer a 5-0 Test whitewash and that was before England lost to Bangladesh.
Add in India’s crushing 3-0 series win over New Zealand and the omens are not remotely in England’s favour.
Can Ben Duckett as Test opener work?
I expected England to pick Hameed though understand the dynamism Duckett offers as a foil to Cook’s effective anchor role.
I don’t see how the selectors can change course now after just four Tests and Duckett has his maiden Test half-century so is up and running.
He will frustrate purists who watch him try to tee off from the beginning. The Northamptonshire man’s explosive batting style with reverse sweeps and all manner of tricks is a nod to his T20 lesson plan.
I wish him well in India which will be a forensic examination of technique and it will be fascinating to see how much, if at all, he reins in his natural aggression.
Of course, you never know, England may throw in a curveball and pick Hameed though he’s not played since 57 against BCB XI on 16 October.
What now for Gary Ballance?
England retain the same Test squad for India as was used in Bangladesh but we can expect changes.
Gary Ballance mustered an aggregate of 24 runs in Chittagong and Dhaka and his place is under threat but dropping him means quite the reshuffle.
Shunt up Bairstow and bring in Buttler who hasn’t played Test cricket since averaging 8.5 out in the UAE against Pakistan?
England are aware about the workload on their fast bowlers but right now, it’s the batting fragility that is going to test that 16-man squad along with a schedule that hampers them and a lack of cricket by those who might step in.
England can’t magic experience out of thin air and they’ve picked their squads so must now back them to step up in India.
What are England’s spin options?
Given England’s collapse against spin and the relative lack of headline success from Rashid, Batty and Ansari, this is the hot topic.
England’s strength continues to be their seam contingent but three spinners remains Cook’s preference as against Bangladesh with Ali, Ansari and Rashid.
Moeen Ali’s 11 wickets at an average of 22 was one of the positives to come out of a difficult tour along with Bairstow’s batting consistency, Stokes (11 wickets and batting average of 32) and Chris Woakes (averaged 55 with the bat).
Stuart Broad will lead the attack and reaches his hundredth Test match in Rajkot which is hosting its first-ever Test match.
Broad was a huge miss in that second Test in Bangladesh and James Anderson wasn’t in the initial squad for India given his continuing recovery from shoulder surgery.
England’s reliance on the duo who have 218 Tests and 824 wickets between them is not to be understated but England’s entire squad will be needed as it’s a long tour of five Tests, three ODIs and three Twenty20 matches that finishes on February 1.
The judgmental knives are out for England after drawing in Bangladesh and but let’s all take stock after India.
Crumbs of comfort are hard to find. England haven’t played five Tests in India since 1984/5 when England lost the first Test in Bombay by eight wickets but David Gower’s side went on to clinch the series 2-1.
You’d get good odds on England repeating that feat but we’ll certainly know more about the skill and temperament of the squad once they’ve faced the top-ranked Test nation in a gruelling away series.
INDIA VS ENGLAND – TEST SCHEDULE:
9-13 November: 1st Test, Rajkot
17-21 November: 2nd Test, Vishakapatnam
26-30 November: 3rd Test, Mohali
8-12 December: 4th Test, Mumbai
16-20 December: 5th Test, Chennai