Is Ansari the Answer?

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Gareth Batty waited eleven years for an England recall and duly recorded figures of 4-116 to aid England’s victory in the first Test in Chittagong.

His reward?

He’s been dropped, sorry, I mean rotated. Whether or not he’ll have to wait another eleven years, by which time he’ll be fifty, for another England turnout will remain to be seen.

Batty will be replaced by Surrey teammate Zafar Ansari for tomorrow’s second Test in Dhaka. Ansari claimed 22 County Championship Division One victims at 31.41 apiece last term to earn a place in the squad ahead of Somerset’s Jack Leach. Leach had taken 65 wickets at 21.88 but Ansari can play the piano and has a degree which the England management believes will serve him well when he makes his Test bow tomorrow! Whether or not they consulted Leach regarding either his musical ability or his university qualifications is unclear. Of course unlike Leach, Ansari provides something with the bat too. He has three First Class centuries to his name and has often opened the batting for Surrey. He was of course due to tour with England last winter but broke his thumb whilst playing for Surrey on the day the squads were announced. The twenty-four-year-old claimed figures of 4-68 in one of England’s warm-up matches on this tour and as well as Batty performed in Chittagong it actually makes sense for the tourists to select Ansari, a slow-left-armer alongside leg-spinner Rashid and off-spinner Moeen. By replacing off-spinner Batty with Ansari, England’s bowling attack now possesses the full compliment of spin actions. Ansari will also gain valuable experience of playing in front of large crowds and in demanding conditions ahead of any potential further opportunities in India.

Ansari will be England Test cricketer number 673 when he takes to the field in the Bangladeshi capital. Silly Point wishes he and his England teammates the very best.

Bangladesh Broken by Batty & Co.

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Congratulations to Bangladesh England on defeating England Bangladesh in a thrilling first Test Match at Chittagong. The hosts have only ever beaten West Indies and Zimbabwe in the longest format of the game but had seemed on course to go 1-0 up in the series for much of this game. England had other ideas though.

Of course only in England can the side win a hard fought Test Match in alien conditions and still get criticised. In the aftermath of the 22-run victory the BBC’s Jonathan Agnew and Ebony Rainford-Brent have suggested that captain Alastair Cook might not have faith in Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid’s abilities. Which is strange given that Moeen bowled more overs than anybody else in the first innings and in the second he opened the bowling whilst nobody bowled more overs in the second innings than Rashid.

Are they seriously suggesting that Cook shouldn’t have thrown the ball to Ben Stokes on the final morning?

The England management seem to have been extremely keen to get Gareth Batty into the side for the first Test but when England really needed a wicket in the fourth innings Cook appeared reluctant to turn to him. When he eventually did it was the county veteran that made the breakthrough having seemingly been underused after taking two earlier wickets. ‘Nora’ recorded figures of 1-51 having opened the bowling in the first innings and 3-65 in the second. Maybe Cook’s perceived reluctance to turn to the Surrey stalwart was actually just an acute sense of when he would be most likely to strike, aka great captaincy.

Captain Cook didn’t play in the warm-up matches and contributed scores of just four and twelve at the top of the order for England having attended the birth of his second child. Had England lost this Test Match such preparation might well have come into question. As it is he deserves tremendous credit for captaining his side to victory against a much-improved Bangladesh side.

Despite victory one or two questions remain regarding the make up of the England XI, namely Gary Ballance’s presence at number four. Come the second Test could Batty’s Surrey teammate Zafar Ansari, who took 4-68 in one of the warm-up games be a straight swap for short-leg specialist but run shy Ballance or could Jos Buttler come in so high in the order despite having played such little First Class cricket in recent times?

Batty has surely done enough to prevent Ansari from being a straight swap for him so could England’s Test Player of the Year Chris Woakes even find himself carrying the drinks?

At the top of the order the England management have surely backed them selves into a corner by not selecting teenage opening batsman Haseeb Hameed for the first Test. Having persisted with Ballance it would seem odd to drop Ben Duckett to four after just one match.

Will Ballance’s three second innings catches provide him with one last chance?

We’ll find out in Dhaka on the 28th.

England’s Selection Scrabble

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With just over twenty-four hours until England take on Bangladesh in the First Test at Chittagong, let’s hope that the England selectors get the balance right when narrowing the 16-strong party down to the final XI.

Haseeb Hameed and Ben Duckett seem likely to make their Test debuts whilst Zafar Ansari and Jake Ball will also hope to make their bows during the tour.

Thirty-nine-year-old Gareth Batty’s last Test Match was against Bangladesh in Durham, way back in 2005 and he looks set to smash fellow Surrey stalwart Martin Bicknell’s record of 114 matches between Test Match appearances. England have played a whopping 142 Test Matches since Batty last donned England whites. He’ll be looking to haul that bowling average of 66.63 down a bit too!