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Bangladesh, the tenth and youngest Test-playing nation, visited Zimbabwe, the ninth, for their first Test tour in April 2001. They themselves admitted that they did not expect to win but saw the trip as a chance to learn. In that regard they succeeded, improving steadily, without ever posing a real threat to their hosts. Though Zimbabwe were still ranked ninth in the World Test Championship, the difference in experience between the sides was insurmountable. But Bangladesh did show, as in their inaugural Test against India, that they had talented players; with a population of 130 million to draw from, they also had the potential to develop rapidly.
For once, the pressure was on Zimbabwe and, in the unaccustomed position of favourites, they failed to play to their highest standard. Their batsmen did not always exploit weak bowling, missing out on the high scores that might have been theirs for the taking; the attack was disappointing. In the two Tests, the Zimbabweans ran up nine fifties, but only Guy Whittall, coming out of a lean patch, went on to a century. He was the leading batsman on either side, with 238 runs at 79.33. The omission of left-arm swing bowler Bryan Strang from the Tests left captain Heath Streak supported by promising but newly blooded bowlers who had not learned to step up the pressure. Streak himself was well below his best form despite flattering figures.
More experienced batsmen would have taken advantage, but Bangladesh could not yet do so. Opener Javed Omar was the batting find of the tour, showing a sound defence and impressive powers of concentration; his colleagues, however, were inconsistent, unsurprisingly finding it difficult to build an innings at Test level. Aminul Islam, a centurion in the inaugural Test against India, began with a good 84, but Zimbabwe discovered his weakness against the rising ball. Captain Naimur Rahman achieved little with bat or ball.
Bangladesh's best bowler was left-arm pace man Manjurul Islam, who took six wickets at Bulawayo, but none at Harare, where the batsmen had worked him out. In the one-day matches, his opening partner Mohammad Sharif, officially just 15 years old, took some good wickets, but the side was surprisingly weak in spin. In the field, Bangladesh worked hard. They were fallible in the slips, however, the inevitable result of a diet of one-day cricket, and they suffered a serious blow when Khaled Masud, who had kept wicket impressively, was injured and returned home.
Easy wins to the home side in all five international matches further emphasised the gulf between the Test-playing countries and the Associates, whose ranks Bangladesh had just left. Inexperience in the longer game was their main weakness, and the International Cricket Council would do well to consider how they prepare prospective Full Members for Test status. With more foresight, Bangladesh could have entered Test cricket much better equipped. That said, these Bangladeshis were fine ambassadors for their country, enthusiastic and cheerful, and sporting on the field of play. One wondered how long this would last in the often cynical world of modern Test cricket.
Match reports for
Tour Match: CFX Academy v Bangladeshis at Harare, Apr 4, 2001
Tour Match: Zimbabwe A v Bangladeshis at Bulawayo, Apr 13-15, 2001
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