England can be satisfied with Bangladesh efforts
So what have we learned from a fast and sometimes fraught sojourn to Bangladesh?
First things first, beating any international opposition 2-0 with half of your first choice bowling attack injured, your captain left at home, and on some excruciatingly deadpan pitches is a good effort.
Those casting an uninformed eye over the series might snort at England’s efforts but the truth is that Bangladesh are a vastly improved outfit with two emerging, world class cricketers in Tamim Iqbal and captain Shakib al-Hasan.
They’ve posed most nations a few problems on home soil and England, who often toil in sub-continental conditions, were worked hard .
But in reality Alastair Cook’s jolly as England captain couldn’t have gone any better. The 25-year-old bagged two centuries and continued his development from a successful series in South Africa.
Often in the past Cook has been excruciatingly becalmed by spin bowling but the sight of him launching two massive sixes during his 173 in Chittagong was refreshing and hinted at a future in T20, a format he currently doesn’t play internationally.
New captain’s react to the job differently and the signs are that Cook’s inhibitions might be released and despite his admittance that he still has a lot to learn as a captain, the sound of Michael Vaughan awarding him nine out of 10 for his efforts will have gone down well.
Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood suddenly sounds an incredibly soothing middle order and Kevin Pietersen returned to form despite his continued struggles against left-arm spin.
Jonathan Trott meanwhile no longer resembles the calm, assured presence he appeared to be when he made his Ashes winning debut last summer.
The Warwickshire batsman has already batted in three positions for England which can unsettle any player but his place in the team would have been threatened had Michael Carberry taken his chance in Chittagong.
And though he was unlucky in Dhaka, Trott’s past record at County level suggests he may face a battle to regain form. A few games at Edgbaston before Bangladesh arrive in the UK might be the ideal tonic for the right hander.
On the bowling front, two things we already knew were reiterated.
England’s seam attack work hard but struggle to take wickets in the batsman-friendly world of Test cricket and as a consequence they rely on the magic of Graeme Swann to win matches.
Luckily, Swann is the best spinner in the world at this moment and the 31-year-old, who moved up to second in the ICC World rankings was man of the series once again.
The fact that England can rely on the Nottinghamshire man to take wickets from day one of a Test is vital to their chances, at home and abroad.
Swann has been helped by the fact that umpires are much more willing to give LBW’s to spinners than in previous era’s but more than anything else it is his personality which inspires England.
Much like Shane Warne, Swann’s in-your-face attitude and positivity can force wickets in all conditions.
His tempestuous youth is often remarked upon but he has matured into England’s leading cricketer and a trusted, respected part of Andy Flower’s set-up. There might still be some clowning around but Swann’s has become England’s talisman.
Stuart Broad in particular will be glad of Swann’s input. It is hardly groundbreaking but Broad is not a man to lead the attack and he struggled in the absence of Anderson and Graeme Onions.
He should not and will not be axed any time in the near future but Broad remains a microcosm for the England attack; workmanlike, often frustrating and sporadically brilliant.
But Tim Bresnan and Steve Finn, the latter of whom could be a handful on bouncy pitches in Australia, impressed Andy Flower significantly.
While England seem intent on pursuing a four man bowling attack right through until the Ashes, Bresnan’s all round form and ability to bowl a ‘heavy ball,’ might persuade them otherwise.
Swann and Broad hold averages around the 30 mark and Bresnan’s presence would mean England have genuinely strong batting through to No.9.
Assuming the top five remain in good form and Pietersen can be persuaded to bat at no.3, England could realistically field a four man seam attack in the future.