September 22, 2014

The Bangladesh album

A look at the side's international highlights: from shocking Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup to whitewashing New Zealand

Bangladesh celebrate their first overseas series win, in Grenada, 2009 © Associated Press

Australia shocked
It's still possibly Bangladesh's greatest moment: mighty Australia humbled in Cardiff in 2005, not long before that summer's amazing Ashes series. Australia's woes started with the dropping of Andrew Symonds, after a night on the tiles, and the second-ball dismissal of Adam Gilchrist. Still, a total of 249 looked likely to be enough - until Mohammad Ashraful got going in a run-a-ball century. He was out within sight of the finish, leaving a nervy climax - but Aftab Ahmed hammered the first delivery of the last over, from Jason Gillespie, for six to level the scores, then collected the winning single. "I am probably the happiest man in the world today," said Bangladesh's captain Habibul Bashar.

The first Test victory
Habibul was also at the helm earlier in 2005, when Bangladesh finally won a Test at their 35th attempt. The victims were fellow minnows Zimbabwe, but millions of Bangladeshis didn't care about the status of the opposition, just that there was no longer a zero in that wins column. Apart from Habibul, who scored 94 and 55, Bangladesh's heroes in Chittagong were two left-arm spinners at opposite ends of the age range: 34-year-old Mohammad Rafique took 5 for 65 in the first innings, while Enamul Haque Jr - only 18 - claimed 6 for 45 as Zimbabwe fell 226 runs short in the second. The second Test, in Dhaka, was drawn, so Bangladesh won their first series too.

World Cup shock
It was the win that really propelled Bangladesh into the big time - their application for Test status was rubber-stamped shortly after they beat Pakistan by 62 runs in Northampton during the 1999 World Cup. Bangladesh made only 223, helped by 40 extras (28 of them wides), but Pakistan were soon 42 for 5, and never really recovered: Bangladesh triumphed by 62 runs. "Perhaps no event since independence [from Pakistan] had united the country with such delight," observed Wisden.

The inaugural Test
It all started so well for Bangladesh in their inaugural Test, against India in Dhaka in November 2000. Fuelled by a dogged debut 145 from Aminul Islam, they amassed 400, and when Naimur Rahman dismissed Sachin Tendulkar in the middle of the third day, India were well adrift at 190 for 5. But Sourav Ganguly made 84 and Sunil Joshi 92 as India pinched a lead of 29. Then, in the first of the batting collapses which would become depressingly familiar in the years to come, Bangladesh subsided for just 91. India wrapped up victory with a day to spare.

England, the final frontier
By July 2010, Bangladesh had beaten all the other Test-playing nations in one of the international formats... except England. The portents when the teams arrived in Bristol weren't too good: Bangladesh had lost their previous 24 international matches since overcoming Zimbabwe nine months before. A total of 236 didn't really look enough to worry England, but wickets went down fairly regularly - five different bowlers took two apiece - and although Jonathan Trott applied himself for 94, he seemed unable to locate top gear and it took him 130 balls. He needed ten off the last over, with the injured Ian Bell as his partner - but edged the third ball to the keeper. Bangladesh had downed England at last.

Victory in the Caribbean
Bangladesh's first Test victories away from home came in the two Tests in the Caribbean in 2009, in St Vincent and Grenada. It's true that West Indies were in turmoil, forced to field a replacement team after the original lot all pulled out during a bitter contracts dispute. But there's an old saying in sport that you can only beat whoever turns up, and Bangladesh did that efficiently enough. Shakib Al Hasan - much missed on Bangladesh's recent tour of the West Indies - took eight wickets in the second Test, then sealed victory with an unbeaten 96.

New Zealand whitewash
Bangladesh's wins over major opposition had tended to be isolated affairs which were often written off as flashes in the pan - until New Zealand came calling in October 2010, and were beaten in all four one-day internationals completed. Two of the matches were won by 9 runs, and the last one by just 3, as Bangladesh held their nerve well. New Zealand's coach Mark Greatbatch grumbled that his team "played like d***s" - and lost his job shortly afterwards.

The World Cup win over India in 2007 © AFP

Another Test win
Almost four years after those wins in the West Indies - and after being hammered in the first Test in Harare by 335 runs - Bangladesh won another Test against Zimbabwe, also in Harare. Mushfiqur Rahim, their jubilant captain, scored 60 and 93. It was their fourth Test victory (and last to date in 85 matches, 70 of which have been lost).

Sri Lanka 6 for 5
A rare Bangladesh victory over Sri Lanka came in Mirpur in January 2009. Sri Lanka managed only 147 in a rain-reduced match, and Bangladesh sailed home with some ease after recovering from 11 for 3, Shakib Al Hasan leading the way with 92 not out. That put Bangladesh into a tournament final - this was a triangular one-day series also involving Zimbabwe, who had earlier beaten the hosts - and really they should have won: chasing 153 in the final in Mirpur, Sri Lanka were soon reeling at an eye-popping 6 for 5. Somehow, though, they got themselves over the line by two wickets, with Muttiah Muralitharan, the match-winner with the bat for a change, thrashing a crucial 33 not out from 16 balls at the end.

India exit the World Cup
It was the match that effectively put India out of the 2007 World Cup almost before it had started (later, defeat by eventual finalists Sri Lanka ensured they could not escape the group stage). And this was also the game that ensured future World Cups would be run on different lines, in which one shock defeat would not necessarily eliminate a fancied team. Bangladesh's second international win over mighty India (the first was in Dhaka on Boxing Day 2004) came in Trinidad. India made a poor start, then lost five wickets for two runs in mid-innings; Bangladesh overhauled their inadequate 191 with some ease. At home, ESPNcricinfo reported, "a government ban on public gatherings was forgotten as thousands of jubilant Bangladesh fans celebrated into the wee hours".

South Africa beaten
South Africa take few prisoners in international cricket, and are very rarely upset by low-ranked teams. But there was an exception in the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, when they came unstuck against Bangladesh in Providence. Bangladesh's 251 owed much to Mohammad Ashraful, who spanked a dozen boundaries in his rapid 87. South Africa slipped to 87 for 6, and even Herschelle Gibbs' unbeaten half-century couldn't drag them close.

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2014. Ask Steven is now on Facebook