12th – 13th January: Flight
After a long and tiring 20 hour journey which started at Heathrow on the 12th Jan, we arrived in Chittagong in Bangladesh around 6pm on the 13th. All players were extremely tired, so first thing was a rest and recovery day so we could hit the ground running tomorrow.
The one thing which surprised me was the weather although it was extremely humid and sticky the temperatures were sometimes as low as 15 degrees with the mornings and evenings getting quite chilly!
14th – 16th January: Practice Days
Everyone was extremely eager to get going with training, as all we had done was travel and sit around in an overly air conditioned hotel. The journey to the ground was very interesting as the roads were total mayhem and all the locals would stop and stare at the bus that was getting a police escorted to the ground every day. I was content on having a window seat just looking at the streets and the people as the conditions that people lived in and the poverty was not like anything I had seen in my life. When we finally got into the nets for practise it was evident what the Bangladesh bowlers were going to be like as their net bowlers were very capable spinners, however the pace bowlers weren’t quite as strong bowling slower balls and Yorkers as normal balls. It took a while for especially the batters to get used to the pitches as we weren’t accustom to the extremely low bounce, don’t think I’ve ever hit so many balls on the toe end in my life!
17th January: Practise match
Everyone was fairly confident that we could take our skills and put them into match scenarios in the warm-up game against Bangladesh XI. However we were given a big wakeup call as we lost by 10 wickets as they chased down our disastrous total of 87 all out. Only two batsmen got into double figures with the bat and we were only in the field for 14 overs as they smashed the runs off without a loss of a wicket. This very poor performance made it clear to us that this tour was going to be very tough indeed and we had to pick up our standards to be competitive let alone win the series. However the bottom line was that this was our 1st game in completely different conditions and in the big scheme of things that was the purpose of a warm-up match.
18th January: 1st ODI - Chittagong
Ahead of the 1st ODI we knew that we had to be at our best win against the Bangladeshis who were on a massive high from the warm-up game. We were eager to move forwards and forget about it. We couldn’t have got off to a much better start as Adam Ball won the toss and we elected to bowl, the opening bowlers bowled brilliantly and although wickets were hard to come by we kept the scoring rate low and we beat the bat many times but not to any success. At one stage we reduced them to 130-4 thanks to Sam Wood and Aneesh Kapil, however a brilliant 5th wicket partnership got them through to a very challenging total of 267.
Again like the performance in the field we started magnificently at one stage being 57-1 after 9 overs with Ben Foakes batting at 3 taking the attack to the bowlers, hitting a quick-fire 32 from 22 deliveries. However, when he departed the Bangladeshis again took control of the game, after valuable contributions from me (55) and Aneesh Kapil’s fighting 43 from 49 balls we were bowled out for 221 losing by 44 runs. This was a much improved performance, but was not good enough to get past the victory line.
23rd January: 2nd ODI - Chittagong
The second game followed pretty much the same pattern as the 1st. Adam again won the toss and elected to field. Again we got off to a good start but we could not make a decisive break through to swing the game into our hands, no one made a massive score of note for Bangladesh, but two scores of 50 and a 43 again propelled them up to a solid total of 256 which was again going to be tough to chase with their team consisting of 5 spinners on a wearing wicket. Almost identically to the 1st game once again we got off to a solid start scoring 70-0 off 15 overs, but unfortunately the spinners began to bowl well in their conditions and started to tie us down, although we fought hard, the rate spiralled out of hand and we eventually lost by 19 runs. The main contributions were from me (92) and Sam Kelsall (43)
24th January: 3rd ODI - Chittagong
Now it was becoming weird, Adam again won the toss and chose to bowl. You would have guessed right again we bowled well up top, but there was a slight change in our mindset for this game following some heated and competitive moments yesterday. One was the way Ben Foakes was runout which we didn’t react very well to, there was also many occasions when our batsmen had to pull away due to distractions from fielders as the bowler was running in. So there was only one way to respond today and that was to take the game to them - our faster bowlers hit the bat hard and we played with more aggression and presence which made a huge difference. It was a tough and heated contest, with the umpires also under a lot of pressure, with their players reacting to any little incident. We reduced them to 250 in the field again, with captain Adam Ball finishing with impressive figures of 10-1-43-4. This pitch was a lot flatter than the previous games and at 2-0 down this was a game we had to win to have any realistic chance of competing in the series. The start of the batting innings was very even as we were scoring at a good rate but kept losing wickets constantly, at one stage we were 110-4 however a very responsible faultless innings by Ben Foakes (111) guided us to a great victory with an over to spare. 2-1 in the series.
28th January: 4th ODI - Sylhet
We had changed location for the tour, flying to a different city in Bangladesh called Sylet, where would play our next 3 games. The day could not have got off to a much worse start as, man of the match from the previous game and wicketkeeper Ben Foakes had gone down ill as well as Gavin Griffiths a seam bowler, Simon Webster and our physio were struck by the bug. Ahead of the match, Adam finally lost the toss and the Bangladeshis didn’t hesitate to put us into to bat for the start time of 9am and very bowler friendly conditions. As soon as the 1st few balls went through there was some considerable movement in the wicket, batting was going to be fairly tough and some application was going to be required. Unfortunately the top order did not show this and we were to be reduced to 68-5 when Sam Wood departed however, a mature partnership between Craig Overton and Aneesh Kapil who top scored with 46 meant that we could post at best a competitive total of 169.
As had been the case in most of the matches in the series the new ball didn’t do as much as it had done in the 1st innings and it was going to be crucial to take any chances that came our way. The bowlers battled hard and with the score at 36-2, we knew that we were in with a chance, but a solid 3rd wicket partnership for the hosts of 80 all but secured the match. We did strike back with a few late wickets but it proved to be in vain as they went to victory by 4 wickets, which meant we were 3-1 down in the series with 3 to play.
30th January: 5th ODI - Sylhet
Every game from now was a must win game for us as the hosts needed one more victory to wrap up the series. The general trend with the toss was whoever won it would choose to bowl. Bangladesh inserted us to bat, but I knew this wasn’t a bad outcome for us as the pitch looked very cracked and tired, there was a lot of variable bounce as well and it was only going to get worse.
The start like most of the other games was fairly solid the 1st wicket fell when the score was on 43; I was stumped for 11 and Sam Kelsall battled hard for 43. After he departed wickets fell consistently, but we fought our way to a respectable total of 195-8 with some big hitting from Craig Overton and the captain Adam Ball.
The game was drifting away from us as Bangladesh were 33-0 after 7 overs, but the game quickly changed as Brett Hutton struck 3 times in two overs which left the hosts reeling at 39-3, this was soon to turn to 79-6 as our captain struck to remove his opposite number. This was to prove the decisive wicket, even though the lower order provided resistance, it was proved to be in vain. We won by 28 runs and reduced their lead in the series to 3-2. Brett Hutton was the well-deserved man of the match with his return of 3-34 from his 10 overs.
31st January: 6th ODI - Sylhet
In the penultimate game of the series we were in confident mood as Ben Foakes our centurion had been pronounced fit to play and we were coming off a win from the day before. We again got off to the perfect start; at one stage being 72-0 off 16 overs we knew that a big score was needed as they had switched wickets and this pitch seemed very flat. As had been the case throughout the series we collapsed in the middle overs against the spin as the ball got older and started to grip. At one stage we lost 4 wickets for 6 runs. Late order contributions from Brett Hutton and Adam Ball got us to 206-8. Myself with 51 and Sam Kelsall with 31 were the main contributions to a below par score.
Bangladesh did not hang about in reply taking the attack to the bowling, they never really looked in trouble and reached their target 4 down with 10 overs remaining finished up with a massive 6 over the sightscreen to top off the series for them. This meant they lead 4-2 in the series and there was no way back for us.
4th February: 7th ODI - Dhaka
This game was now a game to regain some pride for us. We had now changed venues to Dhaka and got the honour to play at the Shere Bangla National Stadium a 2011 World Cup venue, if that wasn’t good enough we even got to play under lights! - which was a 1st for many of the guys.
We chose to bowl 1st which did not go according to plan as our bowlers could not restrict Bangladesh from getting off to a flyer, however 3 strikes in the space of 6 overs from Craig Overton reduced them to 70-3 off 17 overs. We stuck to our plans, but the pitch offered very little for the seamers. So for some strange reason which he probably regrets now, Adam told me to warm-up and get loose to bowl some off-spin, he gave me 10 overs and it was an experience it has to be said but it was good fun. A large 5th wicket stand of 133 took the host to 237-5 off their allotted overs, an above par score on a pitch which was starting to turn massively.
Chasing these runs was going to require a big challenge. Although we lost Sam Kelsall early on to a tight lbw decision, I was joined by Ben Foakes and started to attack the bowling on reaching 73-1 after 14 Ben was bowled through the gate, which left Kishen Velani and I battling hard to keep the strike rotating against the spin. After we were both dismissed, wickets started to fall in clusters and we were eventually bowled out for 161 off 41.2 overs. I’d got to 50 for the second game running but like the last game I was out soon after scoring 55, which was frustrating as I really wanted to go on to score a hundred.
Bangladeshfinished the deserved winners of the series 5-2.
Even though the score line was very convincing we did get 2 of the 3 awards as Sam Wood from Nottinghamshire was named best bowler of the series with his very consistent and reliable off spin. I was named best batsman of the series scoring 301 runs in 7 innings @43.00. Also Ben Foakes was the scorer of the only century on tour, so there were a lot of positives to take away with us.
Amongst the training and match schedule there was also some down time, but unfortunately due to the tight security we were hotel bound for pretty much all rest times and evenings which got quite tough at times. However we during this time the team developed a strong bond and we were able to have some good laughs.
The main hobby in the evenings was Fifa 12 on xbox which was good fun, especially when I kept on smashing Bally (he still hasn’t beaten me yet I’d like to add) We also participated in a quiz night, a pool competition and a drawing competition, which turned out to be brilliant fun. On one of our rest days we participated in Community Projects visiting The School of Hope, a school which provides education to children from a very deprived area of Dhaka, we enjoyed interacting with the children, some even got involved in some dancing – Bally! In Slyhet we visited a kwick-cricket tournament, there were approximately 200 boys and they seemed overjoyed to meet us, we even ended up joining in with the games! Some of them were really talented.
There was also “dual aspirations” which was study time for some players, but for the ones who had finished education meant that we were assigned with tasks to keep us occupied and learning, which was a big help to occasionally take our minds off the cricket.
What I’ve learnt about Bangladesh
I learnt a great deal in touring Bangladesh. Firstly the security meant that we were always hotel bound, a good team spirit was key and respecting others and their personal needs was crucial. The conditions that people lived in on the streets struck me very much, but it was important not to get caught up in the surroundings of the country and focus on playing fair and hard cricket no matter where we were.
On a cricketing side, it was probably the most extreme conditions I have played in. Compared to England in some games there were only 4 overs of seam and spinners would operate from then on. The bounce was extremely low. Fairly flat spinners who in English conditions, you would not expect to turn it, were getting large amounts of spin. It was vital to be 100% on the ball when batting as the conditions were not like at home at all, so my normal instincts had to be curbed as we developed plans for each bowler.
Our bowling attack which was majority pace, also found it tough through the lack of bounce and seam movement which was on offer, but overall we gained a great deal of knowledge and experience of how to play in the sub-continent.