Amid the roaring support of a full house that had braved an evening thunderstorm in Chittagong, Bangladesh's ODI captain Mashrafe Mortaza lifted the trophy his team had wrested from South Africa. He then flashed the victory sign and posed for photos before leaving for the press conference, where he said: "We used to dream of beating big teams. Now we are beating them."
"After some time we will realise that as a professional team we should all have our feet on the ground," Mashrafe said of Bangladesh's recent success. "We should maintain discipline because there will be a lot of tough challenges coming up. I knew that if we have a good World Cup, we will be set up for the rest of the year. That's what has happened. We have four Tests coming up and I will hope these series win will help us."
Mashrafe was asked at the presentation ceremony whether he would request that the Prime Minister grant an extra day of Eid holiday to mark his team's achievement. He had to be asked again, before he sheepishly agreed he would. He said the Bangladesh team do celebrate much apart from a rendition of their team song, Amra Korbo Joy, the Bengali version of We Shall Overcome, immediately after the victory. They retire to their rooms quickly. The festivities may not be excessive but that will not take away from the magnitude of Bangladesh's crowning achievement in Chittagong.
On the back of 3-0 and 5-0 wins over Zimbabwe, Bangladesh reached the quarter-final of the 2015 World Cup, a tournament in which Associates were touted to challenge them. Then they crushed Pakistan 3-0 and a full-strength India 2-1 at home. Now they have beaten South Africa, a team that in the last 13 years has defeated Bangladesh by margins 206, 168 and 128 runs, and twice by ten wickets.
"It is special," Mashrafe said. "I said previously that when a team starts losing a few matches, there's talk from outside and the team goes under pressure. Many of my team-mates are young. It was important to see how they can turn around. I think it is a sign of a good team how we have made a comeback. Credit goes to the boys and team management.
Mashrafe did not want to compare the series wins against Pakistan, India and South Africa, but he said it was a show of Bangladesh's character that they came back from 0-1 down to beat South Africa.
"Beating a big side is different than beating weaker teams. It's always important to hold on to the momentum. We have done so since the World Cup, through the Pakistan and India series. We made a brilliant comeback against South Africa after three losses. It was much needed. It shows character."
Mashrafe conceded the absence of AB de Villiers had been a factor but he had expected Hashim Amla and David Miller to put pressure on Bangladesh. "Not having AB de Villiers would have been good for any team, even Australia," he said. "They wouldn't have needed just AB de Villiers to beat us. They have Hashim Amla who averages 54, they have Killer Miller and other such things they have. People don't mention our players in the same way."
Mahmudullah, who made 50 in the pivotal win in the second ODI, contributed with a wicket with his first ball in the third. He was happy to have made a comeback after being out of the team for more than a month with a finger injury. "This is obviously one of our greatest wins," he said. "To win like this after going a game down in the opener, hats off to our team. Personally for me, too, this has been great. To comeback from an injury and to be able to perform, it feels really good."
Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha, a key factor in the team's turnaround since last October, emphasised he was extremely happy. "I think you can see how happy I am just by looking at me. I am very, very, very happy. This is definitely a great win. Not just this series, all of them … against India, Pakistan, all of them are great wins. I won't compare one win to the other, I have enjoyed all of them thoroughly."
Opener Tamim Iqbal made an unbeaten 61 off 77 balls in the third ODI - only the third time he had remained not out in a Bangladesh chase. "It definitely feels really good," Tamim said. "I don't think you have to ask me regarding how I rate this series win. I think the entire atmosphere says it all. It feels really good."