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The Bulletin by Chandrahas Choudhury
December 26, 2004
Bangladesh 229 for 9 (Aftab 67) beat India 214 (Sriram 57, Kaif 50) by 15 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Bangladesh pulled off a historic first victory at home and also their first-ever win against India in the hothouse atmosphere of a jampacked Banghabandhu Stadium at Dhaka, bowling India out for 214 to prevail by 15 runs and thereby level the one-day series. Bangladesh's victory was a real team effort, featuring inspired contributions from several players. They fully deserved their victory, first converting a score of 88 for 5 to a competitive total of 229, and then bowling tightly and excelling in the field to keep India shackled and just behind the game from the very first over of the chase.
It looked like a familiar story for Bangladesh midway through their innings, as their top order once again wastefully gave away their wickets to leave the team in limbo. But Aftab Ahmed, a 20-year-old playing only his sixth game, stabilised the innings with a strokeful and assured 67 compiled over nearly 30 overs. Aftab helped put together partnerships of 44, 44 and 36 for the fourth, sixth, and seventh wickets, and he followed his crucial performance with the bat with a superlative display in the field.
If it was Aftab who laid the base for Bangladesh's total, then much of the remainder of the game belonged to Mashrafe Mortaza. Mortaza first hustled a crucial unbeaten 31, his highest ODI score, in the slog overs, taking Bangladesh to 229 when at one point it seemed they might not reach 200. After this it proved impossible to keep him out of the game. He opened the bowling and gave his side the perfect start by striking with his third ball, beating Virender Sehwag all ends up with a breakback and knocking back his middle stump.
A while later, as Sourav Ganguly and Sridharan Sriram began to put together a partnership, Mortaza picked up a catch at point to dismiss Ganguly (51 for 3). Then, when Mohammad Kaif and Mahendra Dhoni began to put together a threatening partnership for the sixth wicket, it was Mortaza who was given the ball by Habibul Bashar, and he responded by striking immediately, getting Dhoni caught by Bashar at midwicket (157 for 6). Mortaza then returned for a third spell in the final overs, keeping one end tight, and took a crucial diving catch on the long-on boundary to dismiss Zaheer Khan and bring his team to within one step of victory. Returning to one-day cricket after a 15-month lay-off to injury, Mortaza was the deserving recipient of the Man-of-the-Match award.
India were missing four key players, including Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, and once Bangladesh had made 229 there was a feeling that it was going to be a close game, given the inexperience of India's middle order. But then Bangladesh gave themselves the best possible shot at victory by winkling Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh out early, and India took so long over rebuilding the innings that the asking-rate, not really a factor at the beginning of the chase, had begun to assume threatening proportions.
Bangladesh's fielders as a unit could take a great deal of credit for this victory. Not only did they throw themselves about left and right, cutting off a number of certain boundaries, they also hit the stumps when it mattered. No Indian wicket had a more decisive bearing on the match than the one of Mohammad Kaif, run out by a direct hit by Rajin Saleh after threatening to take the game away with a half-century made at nearly run-a-ball (170 for 7). Kaif at this stage was the last recognised batsman, and once he was out Bangladesh were the ones controlling the game. A valiant 29 not out from Joginder Sharma was not enough to bail India out of the mess they had landed themselves in. Fittingly, it was a direct hit from Aftab, throwing down the stumps from point to dismiss Murali Kartik, that ended the game to spark off scenes of wild jubilation.
At the end of the day, there was not a player in the Bangladesh line-up who did not contribute in some way to the win, only their sixth in 100 matches. Though Aftab and Mortaza stood out, seven of the batsmen made double-figure scores, and four bowlers took two wickets each (the one who took none, the rookie Nazmul Hossain, bowled with splendid control and gave away only 26 in 7 overs). The veteran Khaled Mahmud, whose international career nearly came to an end last year after he was sacked as captain, bowled some nerveless overs as the game drew to its climax, and Bashar marshalled his troops adeptly and made all the right decisions with his bowlers.
India's loss, their 16th in 2004, made it a miserable year in one-day cricket for them, one that can still get worse if they lose the series decider tomorrow. As for Bangladesh, tonight, as they celebrate, they must also be asking themselves the question after the high of this victory: can we do this again tomorrow?
Chandrahas Choudhury is staff writer for Wisden Asia Cricket.