ALASTAIR COOK had little doubt England would prevail over Bangladesh despite a tense end to the first Test in Chittagong that could have seen either side walk away with victory.
Bangladesh started the final morning needing just 33 runs for a maiden Test triumph over England, who required only two wickets to maintain their 100 per cent winning record over the Tigers in the longest format.
It was the tourists who came out on top, claiming victory by 22 runs, after man of the match Ben Stokes trapped both Taijul Islam and Shafiul Islam in front within the space of three deliveries.
England’s captain Cook revealed he was in an upbeat mood beforehand, which was vindicated as England drew first blood after 21 balls and 19 minutes to end an engrossing Test in which momentum changed hands several times.
He said: “I was fairly confident (yesterday morning), if I’m brutally honest. I thought we’d create the chances; the doubt was whether we were good enough to take those chances.
“I was fairly relaxed. I did genuinely think 280 was going to be enough, I didn’t think it would get as close as that and the way they played spin in particular was very impressive. It was a brilliant Test. I certainly didn’t think after the first session that it would go to day five. It ebbed and flowed.”
England were firmly on the back foot after that opening session, during which they were reduced to 21-3 on a pitch that offered turn from the get-go.
However, they had a 45-run first-innings lead after Bangladesh collapsed to 248 all out, having been 221-4 at one stage, which Cook believes proved critical to the outcome.
He said: “The crucial moment was probably the beginning of day three when they were 70 or 80 behind with five wickets in hand and we managed to get a lead. That was the crucial difference.”
Stokes was the catalyst for the collapse, finding some reverse swing that helped him finish with 4-26 before he displayed great maturity with 85 from 151 deliveries to steer England out of trouble and to a testing target.
The all-rounder proved with that innings he can thrive on turning pitches – while he has also registered his maiden one-day hundred on this tour – and it was fitting that he was the one to clinch a thrilling victory.
Cook said: “I say it every single time we speak about him, the guy is that x-factor cricketer which every side would love to have. He balances our side, he gives us options.
“The one thing he has done over the last year is improve his method against spin. I don’t want to say I’m surprised, but it surprised me how well he scored that hundred; it just showed what a lot of hard work can do and he can take a lot of credit for that.”
England are back in action in Dhaka on Friday for the second and final Test and Cook has admitted there are likely to be changes to the side.
Mindful of the five-Test series against India that follows after this tour, he said: “I’m pretty sure there will be some changes, just due to what we have coming up.
“If we play the same side a lot we could have a lot of guys with not much cricket under their belts coming into a crucial Test a bit further down the line.”