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Moeen Ali turns on the power as England overwhelm Bangladesh

England had a prolonged but valuable practice session under the Guwahati floodlights, despite facing a three-hour rain delay and even an earthquake nearby. The world champions used this opportunity to fine-tune their tournament preparations in a thrilling run-chase against Bangladesh. Although the result held little importance, it was marked by an impressive display of sixes from Moeen Ali, who scored 56 runs from 39 balls to secure a four-wicket win with a comfortable 77 balls left in their 37-over chase, which was shortened due to the rain.

Bangladesh had their moments, especially when Tanzid Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman showcased their skills with both bat and ball during the powerplay. However, they were ultimately overwhelmed by England’s relentless aggression. The tone of England’s aggressive batting was set by Jonny Bairstow, who scored a brisk 34 runs from 21 balls. Jos Buttler maintained the aggressive tempo with a quick 30 runs from 15 balls. Although Liam Livingstone’s contribution was brief, Moeen Ali’s sixes into the Assam night ensured England’s confidence heading into their tournament opener against New Zealand later in the week.

More important than the result was the playing time for several players who had been waiting eagerly, including the 2019 World Cup veterans, Mark Wood and Adil Rashid. These players had been carefully managed in the lead-up to the tournament. Additionally, Joe Root, who has been struggling with form and confidence, was able to spend time at the crease. Despite enduring a painful groin injury and a fielding error by Taskin Ahmed at deep backward square, Root anchored the chase with an unbeaten 26 from 40 balls.

The match concluded nearly eight and a half hours after the first ball was bowled. At one point, it seemed that England’s preparations for both this game and Saturday’s washed-out match against India would be limited to a 30-over workout in the afternoon’s shortened action.

During this extended practice, England assessed the form and fitness of nine members of their bowling attack, including all six of their frontline fast bowlers. Mark Wood, known for his explosive pace, returned to competitive action for the first time since July due to a heel injury sustained during the Ashes. He immediately displayed his pace but missed opportunities to dismiss key Bangladesh batsmen.

Mehidy Hasan Miraz played a pivotal role in anchoring Bangladesh’s innings, scoring a hard-earned 74 runs from 89 balls. However, he survived a chance early in his innings when he could have been dismissed for just 7. Wood, on his return, induced an edge, but neither Buttler nor Root at first slip reacted quickly enough to grab the opportunity.

However, Wood’s persistence paid off two overs later. Tanzid’s innings of 45 runs from 44 balls at the top of the order had shown his potential to step into the large shoes of Tamim Iqbal. He had struck seven fours and a stylish six over deep midwicket off Reece Topley. However, he found himself in a dilemma when Wood delivered a rising delivery, resulting in an inside edge that sent the ball crashing onto his stumps.

During the first 20 overs of Bangladesh’s innings, England’s fast bowlers stuck to a strict diet of seam bowling. Each of them had a short but intense burst, displaying their readiness for the upcoming main event. Their efforts were marked by a combination of economical bowling and incisive deliveries, with only Chris Woakes and Gus Atkinson going unrewarded in their five-over spells.

Another significant positive for England was the return of Adil Rashid, who had missed a significant portion of the recent series against New Zealand due to a calf injury. He showed no signs of discomfort as he entered the attack in the 21st over of Bangladesh’s innings and made an immediate impact, taking two wickets in five overs. He dismissed the experienced duo of Mushfiqur Rahim, who fell to a full-toss, and Mahmudullah, who was outfoxed by a brilliantly disguised googly that skidded into his stumps while attempting a cut shot.

When the rain arrived, it appeared that Bangladesh’s total of 153 for 5 in 30 overs would be the end of their innings. However, they were able to resume play after one delayed restart, adding seven more overs to their innings. During this period, England’s fast bowlers continued to pose a threat. Sam Curran made an immediate breakthrough with the first ball of his second spell. Both Reece Topley and David Willey found themselves on hat-trick opportunities, with Topley having induced a questionable shot from Bangladesh’s stand-in captain, Najmul Hossain Shanto, resulting in a sketchy slice to deep third.

Topley’s performance symbolized the mix of rustiness and raw potential that England is bringing into this tournament. His first over was somewhat wayward, conceding 13 runs, including a wide and two no-balls. However, he quickly made amends by taking a wicket with the first ball of his second over. Litton Das, the batsman, was dismissed for 5, although there were some doubts about whether his hand was off the bat at the point of contact.

England’s response was explosive right from the start. Dawid Malan, their in-form opener, elegantly played a delightful cut shot for a boundary off the first ball he faced. However, he misjudged the second ball from Mustafizur Rahman and ended up edging it to the slip fielder. But Jonny Bairstow took over from there, smashing four boundaries and a six in just seven balls to supercharge the powerplay. England reached their 50-run mark within the first four overs before Mustafizur bowled a toe-crushing yorker that put an end to the fun.

An even better delivery from Hasan Mahmud was needed to dismiss an ominously free-flowing Harry Brook. Brook had played four exquisite boundaries in his 15-ball innings of 17 runs, showcasing his raw talent. However, Hasan Mahmud produced a wicked delivery that nipped back sharply, sneaking through the gap between Brook’s bat and pad to dislodge the stumps. Jos Buttler then added to the fireworks by edging his second ball from Shoriful Islam low past the wicketkeeper for a boundary. He followed that up by smashing the third delivery high over extra cover for a six. To emphasize his aggressive intent, he top-edged the fifth ball over the head of Taskin, who could have taken a simple catch had he positioned himself correctly on the boundary rope.

England’s primary concern remains the form of Joe Root, who managed to stay at the crease until the end of the chase but struggled to accelerate his scoring rate compared to the effortless strokeplay at the other end. He should have been caught by Tanzim Hasan Sakib for 7 runs from 19 balls, but Taskin once again misjudged the catch at fine leg and let the ball trickle over the boundary for four runs. Notably, that was Root’s only boundary in his innings. Fortunately for England, Moeen Ali and his teammates didn’t encounter such batting struggles and powerfully sealed the win.

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