|Scorecard:||England v Bangladesh|
|Player:||JE Root, Tamim Iqbal|
|Event:||ICC Champions Trophy 2017|
|Other links:||The Cricketer|
If you were parachuted into The Oval at 6pm on Thursday evening to witness Joe Root sealing victory with back-to-back boundaries - apart from being the second-most distracting thing next to Spidercam - you could be forgiven for thinking this was a canter. In the end, an eight-wicket victory with 16 balls to spare was comfortable, but the hosts were made to sweat with the sun beating down.
Root was typically clinical, sharing partnerships of 159 with Alex Hales and 143* with his captain Eoin Morgan. The Test skipper finished the day with 133 unbeaten runs next to his name and The Oval crowd in his palm.
If it was in any doubt before today (it wasnt), then now it definitely isnt. If England are going to lift the Champions Trophy trophy, on June 18, then it is going to be on the strength of their batting. The bowling was always going to be their weaker suit, but with last-minute changes, and injuries abound, it looks frail to say the least.
Just one-day into the tournament Englands list of injury concerns is becoming longer than Gandalfs staff. Chris Woakes left the field amidst hushed whispers of intercostal muscle and four to six weeks. Today it was announced he has been ruled out of the tournament. A major blow to the hosts hopes, Woakes has transformed himself into one of the worlds leading allrounders.
The sight of Liam Plunkett disappearing from the pitch was cause for more concern but thankfully he returned and finished the day with four wickets added to his tally.
After all the pre-tournament chatter surrounding Jason Roy, and it seeming that England would field a settled XI, Eoin Morgan pitched us a curve ball by dropping Adil Rashid in favour of Jake Ball. Perhaps England had been swayed by the fact Bangladesh were skittled by India for 84 at The Oval on Tuesday - Ravi Ashwins wicket of Sunzamul Islam the only one not to fall to seam. Ball suffered a testing day, going for in excess of eight an over, although it may have been a different story if Moeen Ali had held onto an easy chance at square leg for what would have been a wicket maiden.
But, when England back themselves to chase any total put in front of them, will it all matter? That they shot down 306 - the highest ever Champions Trophy chase believe it or not - with 16 balls to spare speaks volumes. Stokes, Buttler and Moeen werent required and along with Roys early departure, the total was knocked off by three blokes in rare form.
Amidst the din of an impassioned Bangladesh following, pyrotechnics, and some ruddy Beefeaters giving it what for on the drums, Root was a pillar of calm.
On 61 he picked up an ankle injury but refused to be knocked off stride. He has gained something of a reputation of not converting fifties to hundreds but Englands Test captain wouldnt be giving the hacks the satisfaction this time, he was in this one until the end.
Leaning into off drives, flicking off his pads with beautiful placement to split the leg-side field, Root eased into his deceptively rapid method of accumulation.
Hales was typically brash, he looked largely untroubled and was only undone by his own need for speed. Sabbir Rahman was pulled for four then hammered for six over long-on in consecutive deliveries to take him to 95. Hunting for another six to reach his sixth ODI century, Hales didnt get all of it and picked out the man on the midwicket boundary. He could have nudged his way to three figures, thats not his style.
Morgan was equally untroubled and with the captain and Root chugging along like a steam locomotive, the result never looked in doubt.
As for Roy, he didnt look settled, and a misjudged scoop spoke of a player out of form, and perhaps more worryingly, confidence. Therell surely be slaps on the back for Jason, this is a united team and confidence is dripping off those around him, he just needs some to rub off.
Tamim and Mushfiqur show Bangladeshs class
England, favourites? Well, nobody told Tamim.
This is a team that have risen to No.6 in the world, have beaten England in four of their last eight ODIs and house a blend of seasoned campaigners and up-and-coming talent. England were excellent in their composed chase, but Bangladeshs appeal is intoxicating.
Under piercingly-blue south London skies, Tamim and Mushfiqur went about there business accompanied on by a substantial racket, every run being greeted by cacophony of cricketing passion. Rolling roars were unleashed by the Bangladesh following, boundaries and milestones accompanied by fireworks and flames that were rather lost against the canvas of the blazing day.
Tamims high notes included an achingly-beautiful straight drive off Mark Wood and a sprightly two-step down the wicket a ballerina would dream of to propel Moeen into the stands. Meanwhile Mushfiqur was ticking along with a mix of timing and placement, crisp drives and genteel dabs to third man.
Their stand of 166 is Bangladeshs highest third-wicket partnership in ODIs, fifth overall. The highest? 178. The batsmen? Tamim and Mushfiqur.
At 261 for 2 (44.2) Bangladesh could reasonably have been eyeing up 350. Two deliveries later Liam Plunkett was on a hat-trick and the Tigers roar was muffled.
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(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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