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Last Updated: Monday, 28 July, 2003, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
Tigers take small steps
Dav Whatmore's manifesto when he took on the thankless task of coaching Bangladesh was to make regular, small improvements to the side.

Hannan Sarkar
Sarkar scored half-centuries in each innings in Cairns
And, despite consecutive innings defeats by Australia, Whatmore is fully justified in heralding the series a success for the world's newest Test nation.

The Tigers' first innings total in Cairns was their highest for 21 months, going back to their only Test draw so far, against Zimbabwe at a rain-hit Chittagong.

Opener Hannan Sarkar led the way with half-centuries in both innings of the second Test but three other batsmen came within a shot of 50 in the first innings 295.

Critics who predicted a one-day Test at Darwin had to wait three, and it was mid-morning on day four at the Bundaberg Stadium before Australia wrapped up a series whitewash.

"We stretched the game out to a day longer than we did in Darwin. I thought there was definite improvement," Whatmore said.

"To fight back and get 295 in the first innings I thought was excellent."

Their batting was a lot better than some recent West Indies efforts and they were better than Pakistan in Sharjah last year
Steve Waugh
With a domestic structure that has until the last two years involved solely one-day cricket, batsmen are still becoming used to the concept of batting for time rather than quick scores.

Whatmore was particularly pleased by the discipline of his batsmen against the world's most fearsome pace trio - Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath.

In fact is was spinner Stuart MacGill who did the most damage, claiming 17 wickets to take the man of the series award.

Extra steel still needs to be added to the lower order, though: on average the last four wickets in each innings have added just 46.25 runs.

It was not just in the batting department that Bangladesh improved.

Bowlers took 10 Australian wickets in the series, and kept a side that has regularly scored at over 4.5 runs per over against all opponents to a rate under 3.5 on a slow Darwin pitch.

Mashrafe Mortaza stood out from a crowd of military medium-pacers, showing the benefit of coaching from West Indies great Andy Roberts.

Bangladesh captain Khaled Mahmud was pleased by the change in mindset that Whatmore has instilled, saying: "We tried our best to prove ourselves, to fight hard on the ground."

But the task of building character is not helped by an international programme far tougher than any other new Test nation has ever had to face.

In October, Zimbabwe play a Test series in Australia for the first time in the 11 years they have held five-day status.

Mashrafe Mortaza
Mortaza was a cut above the rest of the Tigers attack
The African side, and Sri Lanka before them, built experience in the early years with tours that boosted first-class experience away from the Test arena.

The ICC international tours programme has prevented the Tigers doing the same, mandating two-Test series against each opponent, whatever their strength.

"Playing against that quality of opposition is not easy," Whatmore admitted.

"Maybe against other opposition in future it might be just that little bit easier and we can progress."

Next on the calendar is a three-Test series in Pakistan - the first time Bangladesh have been afforded such a privilege and crucial in learning how to develop plans of attack.

Only a blind optimist would predict defeat for England when they take the Tigers on in their own backyard in October.

But Bangladesh will at least be several steps further down the path to that elusive first Test victory.

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