England sealed a 2-1 series win over Bangladesh yesterday, following their impressive four wicket victory in Chittagong. After the hosts hit back in the second match, England kept their cool when it mattered, and wrapped up the three-match series.
Before England got their winter underway, a number of questions hung over the ODI side. With Eoin Morgan and Alex Hales electing not to travel, and with Joe Root being rested, batsmen Ben Duckett, Sam Billings and James Vince all had a chance to impress.Here’s a look at how they got on.
Ben Duckett hit two half centuries in his three games at the top of the order, and has definitely staked his claim for a test spot. More than that, when Eoin Morgan and Alex Hales become available, their spots might well be threatened by Northamptonshire’s talented youngster. While Morgan is the side’s captain, and Hales a world-class ODI batsman, Duckett has proven that he is more than good enough to score runs at the highest level. His aggressive instincts served him well, and he was selective in choosing to attack. The scoop, reverse sweep, paddle sweep, and slog sweep were all put to use and executed brilliantly in his debut England game, highlighting both his confidence and his ability. While the ODI side might be difficult to break into, the form of Hales, Vince, and Ballance in test cricket could well provide an opening for the lefty.
Sam Billings was another who was out to impress in the series, and was another who didn’t disappoint. Granted, he only got his chance in the third and final match of the series, but his fluent strokeplay and confidence against the slow bowlers will have done the Kent batsman no harm whatsoever. Asked to bat in an unfamiliar position after Jason Roy was declared unfit, Billings rose to the occasion superbly. His 62 from 69 balls also included just five boundaries, highlighting his ability to manoeuvre the field and rotate the strike. For someone playing only their sixth ODI, he looked very much at home, and is certainly one to keep an eye on.
James Vince will be disappointed. Yet again, he looked excellent. His punchy cover drives were technically perfect, and he looked in the form of his life. Once again, however, he kept getting out. He failed to convert any of his starts and, unfortunately, that has been the story of his England career so far. He has lost his place in the test side and, with Roy, Morgan and Hales all likely to come back in for the India tour, looks set to lose his place in the one-day side as well. He needs to have another successful summer at Hampshire, scoring big runs, before he can be considered again. There are too many talented players (for example, Duckett and Billings) for England to give him any more chances just yet.
Jake Ball deserves a mention due to his superb start to ODI cricket, although he is not one of the aforementioned batsmen. Arguably, the Nottinghamshire seamer only got his chance because of Liam Plunkett’s injury. The big Yorkshire fast bowler pulled out of the first two games, giving Ball the opportunity, which he grasped with both hands. Not only did he take a five-for on his ODI debut, but he effectively won England the game. His wickets at the back end of the Bangladesh innings, bowling in tandem with Adil Rashid, saw the hosts collapse from 271-4 to 288 all out, chasing 309. His aggression, pace, and effort were all impressive in that game and, although he was slightly less effective in yesterday’s decider, showed the England selectors exactly what he could do.
It should also be noted that, while England won the series, they could quite easily have lost it. Without Jake Ball’s heroics, in fact, they would have lost it, demonstrating just how hard to beat Bangladesh are in their own backyard. Shakib reminded us what a fine cricketer he is, while Imrul Kayes and Taskin were also very impressive.
I expect England to win the test series. Root, Anderson, and Broad are all coming back, and Bangladesh are a much better ODI side than they are a test side. It will not, however, be a routine series whitewash. There will be scares, and England’s wickets might fall in clusters at times. They also have a number of questions to answer in the batting department: who will partner Cook at the top, who will replace Vince, and how can Gary Ballance keep his place?
Overall, the tour has started exceptionally well. Some excellent cricket has been played by by both sides, and these games are clearly far more than a mere warm up for India. England have looked generally strong, and evidently have a lot of strength in depth in ODI cricket.