‘We showed our inexperience’ – Cook
Alastair Cook admitted England have “a lot to work on” as they approach their five-Test tour of India.
England slipped to a 108-run defeat in Mirpur on Sunday – their first loss to Bangladesh in Test cricket – after the morning saw them drop a host of chances and the evening saw them lose 10 wickets in a session.
It left Cook bemoaning England’s “inexperience” in such conditions and accepting that England “haven’t got world-class spinners”.
He also warned that the team had to “stay strong” and “stay together” in the coming weeks to ensure they were no long-term damaging effects of such a chastening defeat to the No. 9-ranked Test team. England leave for a five-Test series against the world No.1 team, India – a tour for which Cook rated England as “pretty heavy underdogs” – later this week.
“We showed our inexperience in these conditions,” a shell-shocked Cook said. “A lot of these guys have not played many Test matches and when that ball got rolling we found it very hard to stop.
“You lose a couple of wickets, then men come round the bat and the crowd get into it. Being able to deal with it and get through it is crucial. You know it doesn’t last forever, but that half an hour is crucial and we just weren’t good enough. We have to learn fast. There’s a lot of talent in this team and the experience on this trip will only help us if we take the right things out of it. There’s a lot to work on.”
England lost all ten of their wickets for 64 runs in the final session, but Cook accepted his side had also erred in the field. They put down several chances of varying difficulty while the spinners struggled to maintain control.
“I thought 240 would have been a really good chase,” Cook said. “They got 30 too many. We had four or five, not easy chances, but chances you need to take and I started the rot with one at leg slip. You need to take them, especially in low-scoring games.
“We didn’t bowl great. And yes, their spinners did out-bowl our spinners. We’re not hiding behind the fact that we haven’t got world-class spinners.
“It doesn’t mean our spinners are bad bowlers. We’ve got guys who can bowl some really good balls and spells. But we can’t quite control well enough at the moment. We don’t hold our length and line well enough. We bowl jaffas, but we’re easy to knock off strike and we don’t build the kind of pressure we’d like.”
Amid the acceptance of his own team’s faults, however, Cook was keen to praise a much-improved Bangladesh side.
“It’s very easy sitting back and saying ‘it’s just Bangladesh’ but in these conditions, on spinning wickets, their bowlers are good,” Cook said. “I know the guy who got 19 wickets – Mehedi Hasan Miraz – isn’t experienced, but he’s a very good bowler and he’s experienced in these conditions.
“Conditions have been very tough, but I have no complaints about it: that’s what Test cricket is about. Bangladesh thoroughly deserved their win. They’ve obviously taken big strides. They’ll find it hard on bouncy wickets, but in these conditions they’ve a good side.”
Despite the defeat, England look likely to stick with the same balance of the side that they utilised here. While one or two of the personnel will change – Gary Ballance, who averaged 6 in the series, looks especially vulnerable, while Stuart Broad is certain to return in place of Steven Finn – Cook remains keen on an attack featuring three seamers and three spinners.
“I like three and three,” he said. “We know we have our strength in seam bowling and reverse-swing. We take more wickets with that than with our spinners.
“We go to India as pretty heavy underdogs, there’s no doubt about it. But sometimes English people like being underdogs.”
England are due to arrive in Mumbai on Wednesday – though they may try to arrange an earlier flight – and had planned to give the players a few days off with no training planned before Saturday. With Saqlain Mushtaq joining up with the squad for a brief stint as spin consultant in Mumbai, it may be that those training plans are reconsidered.
Certainly it seems likely that a few players will ask for one-on-one sessions with Saqlain, but plans to allocate any of those players who have yet to enjoy much game-time on this trip to a club side around Mumbai have been all but abandoned. They fly to Rajkot on Sunday.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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