Tamim
Tamim Iqbal averages 63.12 against England, his highest against any team Getty Images

History suggests that England are firm favourites, for they edged past Bangladesh in all the 8 Tests. And it is fair and square. It is a contest between No. 4 and No. 9 in ICC Test Rankings. Numbers, rankings, facts: all aspects favour the Englishmen. Hence, Alastair Cook and co. will take the cake, you think? It will not be an easy task, to remind you. Bangladesh are a talented pool. Their progress for the past half a decade has been in an upward surge, especially in shorter formats. Thus, the question beckons: what if Bangladesh pull off the unlikely? FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: Bangladesh vs England, 1st Test at Chittagong

Let us walk through a hypothetical scenario. Tamim Iqbal scores a double-hundred, with middle-order batters Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim scoring vital runs. In response, England fall prey to Shakib Al Hasan’s left-arm spin and are forced to follow-on. England fail again in the second innings, finding it difficult to get accustomed to the conditions. It is hot and humid with no sign of rain. Bangladesh register their first victory against England in the longest format (I know how difficult it is to digest). Mark the four players mentioned in the scenario. On their day, they can actually obliterate the opposition. If you still find it difficult to comprehend, let me further dissect it.

Tamim’s scores against England read 86, 14, 85, 52, 55, 103, 108, 2.

He averages 63.12 against England, his highest against any team. To put things into perspective, those two hundreds came at Lord’s and Old Trafford in 2010. He was named a Wisden Cricketer of the Year for his performance. This time he will be playing in his home conditions, where he scored heaps of runs. All in all, he has churned out 3,118 runs at 39.46 in 42 Tests the highest in the history of Bangladesh.

For a team that is irregular in Test cricket, his numbers are outstanding.

Shakib has played the same number of matches and averages similar. My apologies for not glorifying Shakib with his batsmanship in the above scenario. As a matter of fact, he has a highest score of 144.

All the same, Shakib is Bangladesh’s finest all-rounder, and is placed at No. 2 in ICC Test All-Rounders’ list. Given that England’s middle-order has been frail of late and struggling against spin, Shakib can reduce them to nothingness with his wizardly spin. His 14 five-wicket hauls is evidence to the very fact. Also read: Sabbir, Nurul, Mehedi, Rabbi – the young guns

Mahmudullah scored back-to-back hundreds in ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. One of them came against England. With his team struggling at 8 for 2, the onus was on the talismanic batsman to lead the resurgence. He did what was asked of him, so much so that he scored 103 off 138, taking Bangladesh to 275 for 7. Well begun is half done, they say. For that matter, bowlers did the rest and sealed a place in the quarter-final, pushing England out of the league.

Class-apart technique and solid temperament are Mahmudullah’s traits. He will inarguably tire the English bowlers if he is on song.

Bangladesh last played a Test 14 months ago, against India. Since then they have been grabbing headlines with their stellar performances in ODIs and T20Is. Resuming Test cricket after such a long time will not be a walk in the park. It is a different format with different dynamics. You will need more than aggression to last five days. More importantly, everything boils down to how well does Bangladesh play as a cohesive unit. All this depends on their skipper Rahim. Also read: Tigers look to prowl in whites

“It is nice to be addressed as captain after a long time,” Rahim said in the pre-match press conference. His approach is different to that of ODI and T20I skipper Mashrafe Mortaza. Rahim believes in attacking brand of cricket as well, but is an astute reader of the game. Of course, being a wicketkeeper helps.

However, Bangladesh have excellent batsmen such as the in-form Imrul Kayes and the run-machine (albeit over a short period of time) Mominul Haque in their ranks. If one judges the batting unit, it appears strong on paper. And to make it stronger, the curators have dished out a slow track, which means England pacers Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes cannot generate either bounce or lateral movement. Meanwhile, with James Anderson ruled out due to injury, things get easier for the home team.

However, spinners will get enough purchase as the match progresses. To cover this base, England are likely to play three spinners in Moeen Ali (off-spinner), Adil Rashid (leg-spinner) and Gareth Batty (off-spinner). They may pose threats, but Bangladesh batsman have a reputation of tackling spinners well. It will take an extraordinary effort from the English spin unit to dismantle the Bangladesh batting attack.

Along with Shakib, Bangladesh have off-spinner Mehedi Hasan and slow left-arm spinner Taijul Islam in their armoury. Again, given the track is on the slower side, it will be easier for the spinners to deceive the English batsmen. Also read: 5 visiting players to watch out for

While all that may turn out to be true, chances are higher that Bangladesh will be reduced to a rubble. This, I am sure is easier to digest. England have Cook, who will become England’s most capped player in the first Test; Joe Root, the classiest in the batting line-up; Ben Stokes, a remarkable all-rounder; Broad, England’s third-highest wicket-taker; Moeen, an unsung hero (I had to mention this). The numbers and abilities in the above names speak volumes as to why Bangladesh cannot beat the visitors.

Consider another hypothetical scenario. Cook scores his maiden triple-hundred. Root and Jonny Bairstow score crucial runs. England post a mammoth total. In reply, Bangladesh are bundled out for 200. Cook, for apparent reasons, enforces follow-on. England, for apparent reasons, win the match. While Broad and Woakes trouble Bangladesh with reverse-swing and pace, Moeen and Rashid wipe them out with spin. Eventually, England win the series. This will not come as a surprise.

But then, it is Bangladesh. Once in a blue moon they manage to pull off the improbable. But what are the odds? It is England, one of the mightiest forces in Test cricket. Now the question changes to: can Bangladesh pull off the unlikely?

(Kaustubh S. Mayekar, a reporter at CricketCountry, played cricket at U-16 level. Like his idol Rahul Dravid, he often shadow-practises cricket shots. His Twitter handle is @kaumedy_)