On the face of it, Bangladesh's first foray into Australia as a fully fledged Test nation was a disaster: both Tests were lost by an innings, and all three one-day internationals by wide margins. Their one-day performances were indeed disappointing, but some encouraging signs of added application did emerge from the Tests and the warm-up games.
It was evident that the ministrations of Dav Whatmore, the Australian in his first major outing as Bangladesh's coach after parting company with Sri Lanka (whom he coached to World Cup success in 1996), were having some effect. Nerves took hold on the first day of the First Test, when Bangladesh were shot out for 97; apart from that, the batsmen performed above expectations, especially on the first day of the Second Test on what was expected to be a spiteful pitch.
Bangladesh unearthed a potential batting star in the young opener Hannan Sarkar, who collected two wristy, watchful half-centuries in the Second Test at Cairns. He was surely one of the batsmen Steve Waugh had in mind during that match when he said that the Australians had encountered batting in recent Tests - from Pakistan and West Indies - that was worse than Bangladesh's efforts. That said, there was a shortage of runs from the middle order. Habibul Bashar batted well, if in his customary over-adventurous style, but Mohammad Ashraful was one of several slightly-built players who found the tall Australian fast bowlers' bounce hard to negotiate. And the much touted Alok Kapali, himself a wrist-spinner, could make little of the legspin of Stuart MacGill, whose 17 wickets as a stand-in for the banned Shane Warne brought him the Man of the Series award.
The Australians, most of whom had been inactive for two months since their Caribbean tour, were rusty at first. The openers were unusually subdued, but Darren Lehmann and Martin Love took the chance to boost their averages. And then there was Waugh himself: he pushed his Test average back above 50 with an unbeaten century at Darwin, which meant he had scored a hundred against all nine Test opponents, then went one better at Cairns by extending that record to 150 or more against all-comers.
The experiment of playing in Australia's Top End - at Darwin in the Northern Territory and Cairns in far-north Queensland - during their winter was a success from every point of view except attendance. The weather was perfect and the facilities first-class, but local support was disappointing, with the first days of both Tests attracting only around 6,000 spectators. The experiment is to be repeated in July 2004, with Sri Lanka as more bankable visitors, and the Northern Territory government - whose chief minister Clare Martin is a distant relative of the old Australian great Victor Trumper - is hopeful of securing Tests for Darwin in four of the next five winters.
Match reports for
Queensland Academy of Sport Invitation v Bangladeshis at Brisbane, Jun 27-29, 2003
Tour Match: Commonwealth Bank Cricket Academy v Bangladeshis at Brisbane, Jul 3-5, 2003
Northern Territory Chief Minister's XI v Bangladeshis at Darwin, Jul 10-13, 2003
Queensland Academy of Sport v Bangladeshis at Innisfail, Jul 31, 2003