Contrary to popular opinion, the Bangladesh Test series wasn’t entirely pointless. A squad system is vital for survival on the international treadmill and England can now add two important bowlers – Steven Finn and Ajmal Shahzad – to their stable.
Finn was obviously the stand-out performer with the ball, his consistency and wicket-taking nous impressive for one so young, even if he rather overdid his bouncer tactics on Sunday afternoon at Old Trafford.
Something of a human sponge, he absorbs considerable amounts of information and advice about his role and is able to sift and put the useful bits into practice.
He likes to discuss cricket and is progressing quicker than some of his peers as a result. It is right that he is spared the one-dayers against Australia for two reasons.
One, it would be foolish to expose him to the all-sledging, all-prancing Aussies at this stage, and better to keep him out of the firing line. But more importantly, too, he is quite a mechanical bowler at present which is a strength in Test cricket but more of a weakness in ODIs.
A few premeditated slogs over mid-wicket could undo the confidence he has accumulated so far. Until he acquires a useful change of pace – which I believe with his height and fast arm is the one major asset lacking in his armoury, valuable in Test cricket too – he shouldn’t play one-day internationals.
I would give Shahzad a run in those games, however. Though nearly 25, he has played only 27 first-class games and is a bit short on experience. But the raw potential is obvious.
An excellent work ethic was visible in Bangladesh where he charged in to bowl or batted in the nets every lunchtime during the Test series, and his eagerness to learn was emphasised when he was interviewed by the England selectors before the tour. He was the only player who arrived armed with a pencil and notepad.
He also quickly understood what was required when he got a bowl at Old Trafford. He wasn’t overawed by Tamim Iqbal up the other end and produced the best ball of the day to him, a wicked swinging yorker which all but castled him.
Later, we saw a bustling operator cranking the speed gun up to the high 80s and reverse swinging the ball both ways with good control.
Admittedly, the lower order Bangladesh batting was hopeless, but he produced an absolute corker for their captain Shakib Al-Hasan in the second innings, and there were signs in his make-up that he could be the replacement for Simon Jones that England have been searching for.
He is strong and fit and passionate and one of those bowlers who surprises batsmen with his pace and will keep running in. What’s more, with his skiddy style he could be as good a death bowler as his Yorkshire compatriot Darren Gough used to be.
It’s all extremely exciting. At this point indeed, six months from the Ashes, I’d rather be a Pom than an Aussie.