Cricket Expert & Columnist
No more road strips
Bangladesh must start to develop 'good cricket' pitches if they are to improve, says Mike Atherton.
Last Updated: 19/03/10 3:32pm
England should win the second Test in Dhaka convincingly and so end what's been a long and satisfactory winter on the right note.
Winning the one-day series in South Africa and Bangladesh indicated that the work England have put into their 50-over game is paying off and, with the likes of Eoin Morgan and Craig Kieswetter making a mark, the selectors have a stronger base to choose from this summer.
On the Test front, England can feel perfectly happy with a 1-1 draw in South Africa; it's a hard place to go and, although at times they had to hang on grimly, they also played some decent cricket and the result bore testament to their spirit.
Now - disasters aside - they have also avoided the banana skin that a tour of Bangladesh represents.
England should win by a distance in Dhaka; the first Test showed they are in a different class from their hosts, but on a flat pitch they might again have to work hard to do so if they only play four bowlers in what will be hot conditions.
Aside from spells in the 1950s and 1960s when the game was played on matting and bowlers were a touch quicker as a result, pitches like the one we saw in Chittagong are all cricketers know in Bangladesh.
The contrast in the grass strips found here to those in England - and most other places where you see pace and bounce and movement to some degree - is stark.
If Bangladesh could develop good cricket pitches that offer a fair balance between bat and ball, it would allow their faster bowlers to flourish and help to improve their batsmens' technique.
At present those same batsmen are finding the gulf between facing their own seamers, who bowl at around 70mph, and the likes of Stuart Broad and Dale Steyn who are up around the 90mph mark too difficult to bridge.
Kevin Pietersen commented that conditions in Chittagong were not good for Test cricket and I agree with him.
The best cricket I've played and watched has occurred when the ball has slightly dominated the bat; groundsmen must realise this and understand that they have a big role to play in the game because Test cricket is under pressure from other formats.
I've watched both teams train this week and it's clear that England are far more intense in their preparation than Bangladesh - there is a lot more energy about them and they work a lot harder both physically in the gym and in fielding practice.
There is a clear gulf in the levels of professionalism and that is reflected in the game situation where England outfield Bangladesh.
Coming from the Australian set-up, Bangladesh coach Jamie Siddons knows what professional and intense training is all about but fielding has never been a priority on the sub-continent - it's not just Bangladesh, it is Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan as well.
Fitness has never been a priority, either. It's always been the skill level that has got teams through.
All that is changing now with the advent of Twenty20 but Bangladesh are still a bit behind in that respect and there are also issues with nutrition and limited facilities for the younger cricketers coming through.
One area I'm sure Siddons would love to improve is the number of maidens Bangladesh bowl; the hosts sent down just nine in England's first innings of 138.3 overs.
The trouble is I'm not convinced their bowlers have the ability to fulfil that aspiration. I doubt whether Abdur Razzaq would get into many county sides, while the seamers lack pace and accuracy.
For the meantime, Bangladesh may find learning how to bat for long periods a more fruitful pursuit. The certainly made a better fist of it in their second innings in Chittagong.
It appears as though they will have to contend with Stuart Broad after his rapid recovery and the seamer could be part of an unchanged England line-up.
Certainly from what Alastair Cook has said England don't appear to be contemplating making a change but who knows? Once again they are keeping their team close to their chest.
Given that the pitch will be flat and conditions hot, I would play five bowlers rather than four and the extra batsman but that's a path England appear unwilling to tread.