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England to field ‘smart’ as Dharamsala outfield is cleared for Bangladesh clash

England’s game against Bangladesh, crucial to their World Cup fortunes after their heavy defeat against New Zealand in their opening fixture, is to go ahead as planned on Tuesday despite concerns about the outfield in Dharamsala, after an independent pitch consultant hired by the International Cricket Council cleared it for continued action.

England trained at the HPCA Stadium for the first time on Sunday and were aware of the problems experienced by players of both sides when Bangladesh played Afghanistan there on Saturday, but made no complaints about the surface and did not know that a pitch inspection had been scheduled.

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Sunil Chauhan, the ground’s charismatic chief curator, was at the ground, patrolling the outfield in his trademark cowboy hat. Before the game on Saturday he said he was “confident that our ground and pitches will turn out to be the best in the tournament” but it has proved an optimistic prediction, with the amount of sand on the surface enough to make it potentially dangerous if fielders dive knee- or elbow-first – as Afghanistan’s Mujeeb Ur Rahman did on Saturday.

“I just think if you’ve got players unsure of whether they can dive, and when you’ve got players worried about getting injured – I mean, we’re lucky Mujeeb hasn’t got a serious knee injury,” Jonathan Trott, the former England batter who coaches Afghanistan, said after that game. He has since been in contact with several coaches in the England set-up.

Javagal Srinath, the match referee for England’s game against Bangladesh, also inspected the pitch on Sunday and is said to have no concerns. But the players have discussed how their approach to fielding may be affected.

Ben Stokes winces during a net session in Dharamsala.Ben Stokes winces during a net session in Dharamsala and may not be risked for the game against Bangladesh. Photograph: Ashwini Bhatia/AP

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“There’s been a lot of chat about it,” Jonny Bairstow said. “It’s just about being smart about it. The last thing you want is guys going off with knee injuries or something. It will be very difficult to hold someone back if they see a ball and they try to stop it – it’s a natural reaction to go for it. You might be a bit more clever about how you go about it – it might affect your angles and where you stand.”

Bangladesh, having started their campaign with a win, are expected to field an unchanged side, but England are unlikely to do the same and may opt to field an extra seamer. Given the worries about the ground Ben Stokes’s return may be delayed, but his hip injury had improved enough for him to bat in the nets on Sunday, as well as having a nine-minute individual workout on the outfield.

It will be Bairstow’s 100th game in the format, making him the 27th Englishman to reach that mark. More than a quarter of them are at this World Cup – veterans of the victorious 2019 campaign who illustrate England’s remarkable consistency of selection.

But the time it has taken Bairstow to reach triple figures reflects how few matches England now play in the format. The only member of the team from the 2019 final who had played fewer than a dozen one-day internationals in the year leading up to that tournament was Jofra Archer, who had only just become available for selection, and six had played more than 20. In the year before the start of this tournament not one Englishman had played more than 12 games.

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“There’s not been the same run-in to this World Cup that there was to that one,” Bairstow said. “They’re two completely different lead-ins, two completely different tournaments. Look at the lead-in that everyone had in 2019, and the amount of 50-over games that led into that, compared to the teams that Jos [Buttler] has been able to put out leading into this one.”

Bairstow is also bedding in a new partnership with Dawid Malan having opened the batting 50 times with Jason Roy. The game against New Zealand was only the fourth time he and Malan had done it, including the rain-affected warm-up game, also against Bangladesh, in Guwahati last Monday.

“It’s a natural shift; I’ve played with Dawid for a number of years,” Bairstow said. “There’s a change in the way he plays compared to Jason. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, but naturally it will take a little bit of time to get used to different tempos and styles, but I don’t think it’s a huge issue. We’ll get the job done.”

Predicted teams: England: Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Jos Buttler (c, wk), Liam Livingstone, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood, Reece Topley.

Bangladesh: Liton Das, Tanzid Hasan, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Shakib Al Hasan (c), Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Towhid Hridoy, Mahmudullah, Taskin Ahmed, Shoriful Islam, Mustafizur Rahman.

Umpires: Ahsan Raza and Paul Wilson.