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All set for the Chittagong Test

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Adam Mountford | 14:35 UK time, Tuesday, 9 March 2010

England will certainly be used to conditions at the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong on Friday, having already played a one-day international and a three-day warm-up game at the ground this week.

It's an interesting venue situated around half an hour's drive from the centre of the city - I say, half an hour's drive, but just like in Dhaka, journey times vary massively depending on the level of traffic on the road and even though life here in Chittagong is not quite as hectic as in the capital, every trip to the ground has its fair share of drama.

I have found that the best policy when travelling here in Bangladesh is to keep your eyes closed and try not to let the cacophony of noise around you cause too much alarm. I am not sure quite how the colourful array of rickshaws, auto rickshaws, buses with people hanging off the sides and carts laden down with goods all manage to avoid each other. Maybe its all down to the liberal use of the horn which seems to be the main weapon in navigating your way through the random streams of traffic.

When you finally get to the ZA stadium, you find a venue with plenty of character. From the top of the stand where we are broadcasting you can just about make out the Bay of Bengal, which is the location of perhaps Chittagong's most famous landmark, a ship graveyard.

Spread along the shore just a few miles north of the city lies a stretch of tidal mud which, since 1969, has been the world's main centre for dismantling large boats including oil tankers. The metal from the ships is re-processed and used as a major part of the country's steel supplies. Nothing goes to waste - even the doorknobs and toilets are removed and re-sold and the last drops of oil from the tanker's holds are drained and put on sale.

As well as the sea, you can also make out a fair amount of greenery from the top of the stand at the stadium including the famous Chittagong Hill Tracts, the only intensive hill area in Bangladesh. They run for 13,000 kms bordering India and Burma and are one of the country's main tourist attractions. Our scorer Danny Byrne has spent the last few days between the ODIs and Test matches exploring the hill tracts and it will be fascinating to hear his experiences.

Chittagong's famous ship graveyard
Chittagong's famous ship graveyard is visible from the top of the stand

As well as hills and water, there is also a fair amount of livestock on view from the stadium. Goats and cattle happily chew the grass around the car park at the ground although the high number of security guards around will I'm sure prevent any of them making their way onto the outfield during play!

The action at the ground has also been interesting - especially on the final day of England's warm-up match.

Myself and Simon Mann located ourselves next to the official scorers for the match as information can sometimes be a little scarce at these practice games. All was relatively calm for two days before Alastair Cook and Michael Carberry started to bowl in the half-hour before lunch on the final day.

As an incredible 189 runs were plundered in just nine overs and the poor scorers and the scoreboard operators at the other side of the ground just could not keep up and we went into the unusual situation of no-one having any clear idea of what the score actually was for quite some time. I'm not sure Cook will be checking the scorebook too often, however, after bowling five overs for 111 runs!

Poor old Kevin Pietersen could have done with some friendly bowling to kick-start his tour but again departed for a low score. To be fair, he actually looked in pretty good nick for the 20 runs he made and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a few in the first Test.

He'll definitely feature on Friday - but the make-up of the rest of the team will be fascinating. It looks like James Tredwell and Tim Bresnan have done enough to win selection and with Graham Onions almost certainly out and Stuart Broad still to prove his fitness, young Steve Finn may make his debut after bowling well in the warm-up match. Then there is the question of whether England open with Carberry, who would make a dream debut four years after almost giving up the game when languishing in the Kent second team. If England play five bowlers then Jonathan Trott or even Ian Bell may open. All will be revealed at around 0300 Friday morning.

Our team for the Test series is Bangladesh veteran Simon Mann, who is making his third trip to this country. He'll be joined by "the analyst" Simon Hughes, who will once again be part of the TMS team following tours with us previously to India and Sri Lanka and we'll also have top Bangladesh broadcaster Shamim Chowdhury in our commentary box again following his successful stint in the one-day series.

Expert analysis will come from Mark Butcher who batted for England on their previous tour to this country six years ago. He'll be joined by Dominic Cork, who has been bowling at England in the nets this week as he builds up for his county season with Hampshire, and Athar Ali Khan, who played international cricket for Bangladesh for 13 years.

As well as ball-by-ball commentary we'll have plenty for you during the intervals. On Friday, we'll have a special profile of Alastair Cook on his first day as England Test captain, we'll also be live in India as the third Indian Premier League gets underway and have a special interview with Bangladesh coach Jamie Siddons, who was with the Australian side which lost to Bangladesh famously in Cardiff in 2005.

With Sport Relief only a few days away, on Saturday we'll be hearing about a project here in Chittagong which has been funded by previous appeals and we'll be joined by former England captain Alec Stewart who will be telling us about a Sport Relief event in Surrey - and on Sunday we'll focus on the amazing story of how a team from Afghanistan qualified for the ICC World Twenty20.

The text commentary will of course be in operation and look out for the TMS podcast after each day's play with the two Simons, Hughes and Mann, and more pictures on the TMS Flickr. As always we want to hear from you - especially if you are up on Friday at 0315 for the start of our commentary - you can comment on this blog, email or text 84040.

And finally thanks to the many of you who have already sent kind messages after our double success at the Sports Journalists' Association Awards on Monday evening. We were thrilled that Test Match Special was named "Radio Programme of the Year" and Jonathan Agnew "Radio Broadcaster of the Year". A great honour for us.


  • Comment number 1.

    Adam nice to hear there are still some test venues that have not been sanitised.

    Sorry but I must disagree with your view on KP.

    "Poor old Kevin Pietersen could have done with some friendly bowling to kickstart his tour..."

    The last thing KP needs is declaration (buffet) bowling, he wants challenging practice before the tests not some one throwing up full tosses.

  • Comment number 2.

    Adam, the ODIs were open on the Internet: we could all listen, anywhere in the world, which was a delightful surprise. Will this happen for the Tests too?

  • Comment number 3.

    "Myself and Simon Mann..."

    Or, in English, "Simon Mann and I".

  • Comment number 4.

    Am intrigued by the Analyst - ITV have him as "renowned analyst Simon Hughes" in their coverage of the IPL which starts this Friday - he is going to be awfully busy (but he is jolly good)

  • Comment number 5.

    It is quite ironic that pundits such as Jonathan Agnew have decried Strauss not going to Bangladesh, yet who do we get for the coverage team - just the second team. Where is Agnew, Boycs et al.

    Equally the Sky team seemed to have only Willis and Athers left, with Bangladesh obviously the bum draw and beneath Gower, Botham et al.

  • Comment number 6.

    Geoff Boycott has health problems with hot climates, I know. Personally, I would find a trip to Bangladesh fascinating, although maybe a little disconcerting.

  • Comment number 7.

    What a build up for this match as if they are taking on Aussies for Ashes. Come on media. Dont over do.

  • Comment number 8.

    Adam, you have painted a good picture of the area and it sounds much as I though it would be. I've just taken a call from my husband who touched down in chittagong earlier today, and is now at his hotel. He used the word "bonkers" to describe it. Policemen asking for tips at the airport for escorting him to a taxi.

    In all ways this seems to be a "going through the motions tour" from england as others are suggesting. One cannot expect teams like Bangladesh to develop and their cricket infrastructure to improve without the so-called big teams touring there. We do not want the same teams continually dominating the game and the so called smaller teams should not be patronised by second string performers. Where are you Straussy?

  • Comment number 9.

    Congratulations to Team TMS and to ace commentator Jonathan Agnew for the honours and awards bestowed on them in acknowledgement of their excellent coverage.

    Let's wish the cricketers of the two teams a very exciting Test Match at the ZA Cricket Stadium in Chittagong.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 10.

    Sorry, manofthematch, but I don't agree. The Aussies treat EVERY match of equal importance; it's the way they get used to habitually playing with the intensity that has served them so well. It's about time England got into this mentality too.

  • Comment number 11.

    mr.gravybeard:: I wish England team has the kind of mentality that you've mentioned than the media. Permanent Captain taking "time off" during a series doesn't justify your comments.

  • Comment number 12.

    What a way for KP to turn around his form. I just hope he comes good in the World cup now. An England victory in the world cup final is long overdue - don't you agree?

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