In their first Twenty20 international since last year’s World Cup final England were brought back down to dusty earth as Bangladesh emphatically outbatted them in Chattogram to win by six wickets with two overs to spare. Though Jos Buttler sparkled in providing the day’s highest individual total, several of his teammates floundered, and they needed Bangladesh’s batters to become similarly bogged down if they were to defend a score of 156 for six. Instead not one misfired, with Najmul Hossain Shanto’s 27-ball half-century the highlight.
Seven games into England’s white-ball year they are yet to win a toss, and to compound that odds-defying run the ease with which Bangladesh scored as night fell suggested they may have chosen the best of the conditions. “It definitely sped up, there was a lot more pace on the ball when we bowled and they used that quite well,” said Phil Salt. “Knowing the conditions and surface is half the battle.”
A team including Mark Wood and Jofra Archer are more than capable of putting pace on the ball themselves, and the former eventually arrowed it into Shanto’s middle stump with such force that a new stump had to be summoned. By then, though, the 24-year-old had done irreparable damage to England’s chances of victory. “I just watched the ball and played cricketing shots,” he deadpanned later.
Bangladesh’s innings started with Rony Talukdar, making his second T20 international appearance nearly eight years after his debut, batting as if determined to make up for lost time. Meanwhile Litton Das attempted to shrug off the horrors of his recent one-day series (three innings, two ducks, seven runs) and keep pace. The first three overs went for 10, 11 and 11 again, at which point Buttler gave the ball to Adil Rashid, so often England’s white-ball salvation.
Rashid did his best. His second delivery was a googly, and Talukdar misread it as it spun past his bat and into leg stump. In the following over Das top-edged an Archer delivery to mid-on and the match seemed once again in the balance.
But Shanto and Towhid Hridoy, the rising star of Bangladeshi batting, settled straight into their work and in the space of six balls around the end of the powerplay made a decisive move. Hridoy hit boundaries off the last two deliveries of the sixth over, bowled by Chris Woakes, and then Shanto tucked into Wood, hitting one just over Chris Jordan at mid-on, another just past Ben Duckett at mid-off, another through midwicket, and a fourth just wide of Jordan, various Englishmen diving and stretching forlornly at boundary-bound balls. By the time Shanto was dismissed in the 13th over Bangladesh needed less than a run a ball, and Shakib Al Hasan guided them home with great skill and little drama.
Except for Afif Hossain, who went at 115, every Bangladesh batter progressed at a strike rate in excess of 140. However, on not just the same ground but the same wicket on which England struggled to score in Monday’s final ODI, too many of their batters became similarly stuck.
Salt was the first, hitting a few excellent shots off the seamers in the early overs only to get bogged down once Bangladesh turned to spin. He ended with 38 off 35 balls, heaving across the line and getting the slightest of nicks on Nasum Ahmed’s delivery.
“I’ve had four hits out here and I’ve got two starts,” Salt said. “They’re the most frustrating ones for me because you want to be the guy who goes on to win the game – that’s the mark of a world-class player. I did the hard work on a difficult wicket. Once you get to 40-odd you want to kick on and win the game for your side.”
Buttler threatened to do just that, and but for one significant stroke of luck, being inexplicably dropped by Shakib when on 19, was otherwise immaculate in scoring 67 off 42 balls. Only Duckett, with a 13-ball, 20-run cameo, came close to keeping pace with his captain. There was, inevitably, a trademark sweep for four but also two scooped boundaries before Duckett was bowled by a Mustafizur Rahman delivery that kept unsportingly low.
And in that moment, the match swung. At 135 for two with just over four overs to go and two batters purring, England were promisingly placed, but after Duckett’s dismissal Buttler heaved the next ball to long-on, where Shanto took a good catch. In the previous four overs England had scored 46; in their final four they managed only 21. From toss to tempo, England head to Dhaka for the last two games of the tour seeking a total turnaround.