After gaining a decent draw in the test series against South Africa, England now has to move forward into 2010 and continue the fine work that Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss have put into the team last year. Their success in the Ashes was a pleasant surprise considering the state the team was in after the Pietersen/Moores debacle at the start of the year.
The tour to Bangladesh on paper will look like a formality for England and considering the gap between the two sides, it should be. However, the tour represents a good challenge for several players.
Alastair Cook has been given a chance to show that he's got material to be captain and it shall be intresting to see how he manages the daily duties of being captain. Cook has experience of captaining the U19 team when they reached the semi-finals of the U19 World Cup in West Indies held in Bangladesh in 2004.
Ever since coming into the England team in India in early 2006, Cook was touted as a future England captain and for him it will be a real test of character to see how he gets on. England will be expected to win the three one-dayers and two tests that they are playing against Bangladesh, so there will be a lot of pressure on the young Essex opener to achieve this. He will also be expected to bat responsibly and once in, to really make dig deep and compile a big century boosting his test average at the same time.
For other players it's a chance to continue their good work. Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood were unfairly criticized during the Ashes series for not getting enough runs. This was despite the fact Collingwood's vital knock in the second innings helped save the first test match in Cardiff and Bell's knock of 72 helped England gain a good first innings score in the final match at the Oval.
Both players batted well in the recent tour of South Africa with Collingwood seemingly back at his best. Bell showed great mental strength in scoring his century at Durban and he'll be expected to knuckle on now and get back to being in the batsmen that England and the media want him to be.
Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior will all need to do well in this series. The last of those names Prior has kept well since coming back into the team at the end of the summer of 2008. He is a classy aggressive batsmen but needs to bat more responsibly in the future. He had a couple of half centuries in the South Africa tour but had too many low scores for his liking.
In the last match of the series held at Cape Town, the way he got out was very disappointing, getting out twice on the pull. First innings he received a good ball but in the second innings he looked nervous and it was a shot that no international cricketer should have played. Keeping against spinners is never easy, but he's built up a good relationship with Graeme Swann and will need to go back to batting the way he knows he can.
Pietersen and Trott, meanwhile, will know that they need to bounce back. Trott was not the worst of England's batsmen in the test series, but looked scratchy at times. The best thing for him would be to go back and watch how he batted at the Oval against Australia when in difficult situations he batted with responsibility and a calm head and made sure he got himself in before playing his shots. Trott has the talent to overcome this and it should not be forgotten he's still early into his international career and even the greats had problems early on.
Pietersen, meanwhile, perhaps should almost go back to the basics. The great Geoffrey Boycott has said countless times over the decades that sometimes what a struggling batsmen needs to do is to just be happy with taking singles and the odd two, before the bad balls come along. From watching how Pietersen has played in South Africa this appears to be something that he just can't do. He has the ability to end up scoring 25 test match centuries for England and to score really big centuries. I am sure that once he is fully recovered from his injury and when his confidence starts coming back he'll be back to himself.
England need a fully physically and mentally fit Kevin Pietersen ready for a tough year ahead in which he'll need to score runs at home againgst Pakistan (and Bangladesh) before the Ashes come along in November. A model player that Pietersen should look at is Jaques Kallis who has the ability to get to around 20-30 runs and look odds-on (at least in the eyes of viewers) to score a big century which sets the team up for a big first innings score.
The tour to Bangladesh also gives new players to the squad a chance to prove themselves. With Andrew Strauss taking a much deserved well-timed rest, there is a position available for another batsmen to come into the team.
Hampshire's Michael Carberry has rightly been called up by the selectors and after doing well for the England Lions when he has played for them, it is a great chance for the top order batsmen to solidify his place in the squad. Carberry has worked hard to earn this chance and was the third highest run scorer in County Cricket last season. He should open alongside Cook and will look to bat well to make sure he's the next batsmen in waiting when a place comes up.
In the bowling department with James Anderson taking a rest due to a dodgy knee, it's a chance for some bowlers to grab their chance. Kent's James Tredwell has been selected as the second spinner on the tour ahead of the young Adil Rashid from Yorkshire. With Swann the number one spinner, I think the selectors have missed a chance to show their faith in Rashid.
After performing well in the One Dayers versus Australia last summer, the selectors have overlooked this because of one bad over against South Africa in a Twenty20 game where Graeme Smith and Loots Bootsman were whacking the ball all over the park. With a turning wickets in Bangladesh it would have been a good chance to give Rashid more experience.
I can understand why they have picked Tredwell as if they are concerned about Rashid's confidence. It will be important to keep him in check with the Lions and make sure that the second spinner in Bangladesh is confident, considering the amount of overs he's likely to bowl.
The real interesting selection was of Ajmal Shahzad from Yorkshire. Shahzad was the first British born Asian to play for the county and at 24 has emerged as a real talent after a good 2009 season.
The England selectors have clearly noticed him and he's been part of the England Performance Programme over the last couple of months in South Africa. In a way it's good for Shahzad that England have a good crop of bowlers as the selectors can give him experience whilst making sure he still plays for his county, getting games and overs under his belt. They only need to look at someone like Saj Mahmood, who after a bright start for England was not given the chance to play regularly for his county and now looks unlikely of adapting at the international level.
The last real taking point of the squad was whether Andrew Strauss should have been selected. With a big 18 months of cricket ahead with the Ashes and the World Cup it's vital the captain gets a rest and keeps refreshed going into big stressful series. There is time before the tour for Strauss to rest, however it's vital that England continue to move forward and that when opportunities arise that young players get it.
It is the only way that the selectors can shape the future of the team and ensure that there are no panic selections in the future ahead. With that reason in mind it's a tour that should be well worth watching, plus Bangladesh have a few talented players looking out for as well.
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