Bangladesh's limited-overs series in England was regarded as such an afterthought by their hosts that they opted to rest their leading bowler. They probably would have done the same with their best batsman, too, were he not already injured. How England could do with Graeme Swann and Kevin Pietersen now. These three one-day matches, shoehorned between two series with far greater box-office pull, against Australia and then Pakistan, took on a new significance after Bangladesh's heroics in Bristol on Saturday.
It was the subcontinent side's maiden victory in any form of cricket against England, and their first against anyone in the best part of a year. It sent the majority of the 140 million people in the cricket-loving country into rapture. "Tigers fell final frontier," read the headline on the lead story on the front page of the Daily Star, Bangladesh's biggest selling English-language daily, yesterday.
That referred to the fact England were the last of cricket's recognised powers to be undefeated against the Tigers. Now Andrew Strauss's men know how Australia felt in 2005 in Cardiff, and Pakistan as far back as the 1999 World Cup. Mashrafe Mortaza, Bangladesh's victorious captain, has missed much of the heartache of the last year due to a long-term knee injury. He was only handed the captaincy reins for this series after Shakib Al Hasan asked if he could take a break from the responsibility.
"After 24 matches losing in a row, this dressing room had not really been happy," Mortaza said after the win. "We have been working hard in the nets and we hoped that it would come." With the streak broken, Bangladesh are in the unprecedented position of being able to clinch a series win if they can repeat the trick in Birmingham today. They will again be without Roqibul Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim, their injured middle-order batsmen, not that their absence appeared to unduly hinder the Tigers last time out.
Defeat took the shine off a promising recent spell in limited-overs cricket for England. Jamie Siddons, the Bangladesh coach, had lauded his side's opponents as being "capable of beating anyone" on current form. And Strauss, the England captain, was keen to keep the loss in perspective. "We lost the last two against Australia and now we've lost this one but I'm still very happy in this one-day set-up," he told reporters.
"We're still very, very buoyant as a group of players but you need to learn from your mistakes." Ian Bell will miss the chance to play at his home ground, Edgbaston, today, due to the fractured metatarsal he picked up while fielding on Saturday. Bell, who owed his run in the side to Pietersen's thigh strain, has been replaced in the England squad by Ravi Bopara. @Email:email@example.com