A result that will resonate
There was a time, not so many months ago, when England's standing in one-day cricket was so low that one of the game's most spurious statistics might actually have been worn as a genuine badge of honour. How spectacular the irony, then, that in the very same season that they finally appeared to get their act together in limited-overs cricket, England squandered their 100% record against Bangladesh with a performance that reeked of the very complacency that their previous efforts had not been able to justify.
Until Saturday's nerve-shredding second ODI in Bristol, England had finished on the winning side in every one of their 20 previous international encounters with Bangladesh - often emphatically, occasionally unconvincingly, and every so often, such as at Mirpur back in March, by the skin of their teeth.
But it was a run of results that came with an inbuilt "just you wait" clause, because the law of averages dictated that such a string of successes could not be carried on indefinitely, even against a team with such lowly expectations as Bangladesh. Sure enough, at the 21st attempt, England received, in the words of the Mail on Sunday, a "full custard pie to the face", delivered with lashings of whipped hubris, and accompanied by a large dollop of mocking laughter, particularly from the direction of St John's Wood, where the recently defeated Aussies are preparing to take on Pakistan at Lord's.
Simply put, England expected to win, but Bangladesh wanted to win, and gloriously, that extra desire gave them the edge they needed to slice through their opponents. If England dropped their guard for this fixture - and everything from their team selection to their attitude in the field suggests that they did - then they failed to take into account Bangladesh's burning desire to finish a tough year with some tangible evidence of progress.
Until Bristol, Bangladesh's 2010 record, in all forms of the game, was P24 L24 - figures that gave no clue of the visible signs of development within a talented but naïve core of players. Tamim Iqbal's sensational solos, allied to the combative class of Shakib Al Hasan, had gone some way towards tilting the perception of a team that, in the past, had been all-too-easily cowed, but unfortunately the only sporting currency that the Bangladeshi public deals in is victory. The impatience for success was in danger of causing another set of babies to be thrown out with the bathwater.
The pressure of the spotlight had already had a detrimental effect on Shakib, who was relieved of the captaincy on the eve of the tour to enable him to concentrate on regaining his status as the No. 1-ranked allrounder in world cricket. And to judge by the increasingly world-weary pronouncements of their Australian coach, Jamie Siddons, the frustrations of constant defeat were clearly grating after two-and-a-half years at the helm. Now, however, he's had his Cardiff 2005 moment - this is a result that will resonate, no matter what happens in the series decider at Edgbaston, and no matter how deaf the wider world may be to Bangladesh's struggle for acceptance in the top tier of the game. And the confidence it will imbue in the squad ahead of the 2011 World Cup is unquantifiable.
It is claimed that one swallow does not make a summer. Whoever scripted that proverb knew nothing of Bangladesh cricket, for single swallows have been the country's stock-in-trade since its earliest years of international status - the 1997 victory over Kenya that landed the country its epoch-making ICC Trophy title, and the 1999 World Cup win over Pakistan that led directly to Test status.
Throw Cardiff into the mix, plus Tamim's coming-of-age against India at the 2007 World Cup, and there, in a nutshell, is the tale of the tape so far. To suggest that beating England in England slots straight into the top five would be no exaggeration whatsoever. The frisson of getting one over the old colonial masters is an added factor that cannot, and will not, be overlooked either.
No matter how shocked and self-recriminating Andrew Strauss proved to be after the match, England have known all year that they had to be wary of such a result, especially having pulled themselves out of a nose dive in that Mirpur fixture back in March. Eoin Morgan eventually sealed that match by two wickets in the final over with a bloodless unbeaten century, and as Tamim later admitted, Bangladesh's players "cried like babies" in the dressing room afterwards - a candid insight into an emotionally fuelled squad, and a hint, perhaps, that they wouldn't let another opportunity that good go begging.
The man who bit the bullet on that luckless occasion was the 20-year-old Shafiul Islam, whom Shakib had brought in to the attack with 16 runs to defend, but whose first five balls were all that Morgan needed to complete the job. On Saturday, his personal redemption was completed when he found the edge of Jonathan Trott's bat with five runs and three balls still to come. For the captain, Mashrafe Mortaza, the payback ran even deeper. England were his opponents, at Chittagong way back in October 2003, when he suffered the knee injury that has devilled his progress ever since.
Given the decrepit state of the Bangladesh squad as it made its way south from Nottingham on Thursday night, what happened at Bristol is even more remarkable. And yet it clearly takes a pretty special set of circumstances for a team so used to beatings to enter a match with absolutely nothing to lose. A similar scenario worked in their favour when they overturned New Zealand for the first time in 2008, despite having lost the services of 15 players to the rebel Indian Cricket League.
After the England series is wrapped up, Bangladesh's attentions turn to the lower tier, with two ODIs against Ireland, and one apiece against Scotland and Netherlands, a trio of countries they need to put in their place to satisfy the demands of those who would seek to strip them of their elite status. But whatever the result of those fixtures, they are not due back in Britain for a full international tour until 2020, which makes their latest West Country heist all the more timely.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.