A while back, I wrote a post refuting the general view that Bangladesh are getting better. On the evidence of the test series with England, I was wrong. They are getting better but how competitive are they? And how close are they to actually winning a test match against anyone other than Zimbabwe or a West Indies third XI?
First the positives. Whatever the outcome of the 2nd Test, Bangladesh have done reasonably well in this series. They have taken both games to five days and certainly in this test they have at times been on top -like on the first morning when Tamim Iqbal's blitzkreig batting had England in temporary disarray. They've also had the worse of the umpiring decisions in this match with Tony Hill in particular making a number of howlers in England's 1st innings.
Bangladesh have also finally produced some decent players. Tamim Iqbal looks a special batsman and at 21 can only get better, especially if he quells the recklessnessthat saw him lose his wicket in the 2nd innings yesterday at such a crucial time. Shakib seems to be growing into his captaincy role and is a genuinely good all-rounder. Mahmudullah is a classy batsman and he was Bangladesh's most dangerous bowler in the 1st test. And Mushfiqur Rahim also looks good with the bat even if his wicketkeeping leaves a lot to be desired. Junaid Siddique has also done well and could have a future as Tamim's opening partner.
So things seem to be improving and doubtless, on their own pitches, Bangladesh could give New Zealand, West Indies and even Pakistan a run for their money. But there are some fundamental problems too. With Mortaza injured and unlikely to play test cricket again, the seam attack is extremely weak, which doesn't bode well for the early summer tests in England. They also lack strength in the batting department and seem to rely on the same players each time. What price would Jamie Siddons pay for Mohammad Ashraful to finally realise his undoubted promise?
They have alsodeveloped an unerring ability to lose the initiative in matches just when it looks like they are getting on top. Yesterday, they knocked off the 1st innings deficit for the loss of only one wicket before imploding on a docile pitch. Similarly, Bangladesh failed to step up to the plate at crucial moments against India and New Zealand in recent test matches. At the moment they are a team that can have a good session or even a good day, but over five days they lack consistency and concentration.
Bangladesh's record since playing their 1st test in 2000 is atrocious with only three wins and six draws in their 65 tests before the current match in Dhaka. That record will undoubtedly improve as the team is young, but there is a long, long way still to go for Bangladeshi cricket.