Test matches (2): Bangladesh 0, Australia 2
One-day internationals (3): Bangladesh 0, Australia 3
Whatever the Australians expected of a country most of them had only seen submerged under flood water on the television news, they must have been surprised by what they found on this inaugural tour.
Who knew that Bangladesh would put up a fight in the First Test that threatened an even greater upset than their shock one-day win in Cardiff ten months earlier? Who could have predicted a bloody lunchtime brawl between the media and the police? Or that, despite the tightest precautions the government could muster, Australia's security manager would find himself rushing towards a man training a rifle on the players?
That Australia completed a clean sweep - 2-0 in the Tests and 3-0 in the one-day series - tells only part of the story. It cannot convey the breathtaking boldness of opener Shahriar Nafees in the First Test at Fatullah, where Bangladesh blazed their way to 427 and reduced Australia to 93 for six, or Jason Gillespie's extraordinary composure and pig-headed focus in reaching an astonishing double-hundred as night-watchman in the Second Test at Chittagong. It does not describe how Ricky Ponting, under intense grilling from a 100-strong media throng, admitted he was wrong to question Bangladesh's Test status, or how his team, weary after ten months' non-stop cricket, lashed out at their home board over the decision to allow only four days between their final Test in South Africa and their first in Bangladesh.
The nastiest shock was reserved for security manager Reg Dickason during the First Test. There had been months of planning and checks, guarantees and pledges, assurances and reassurances from the Bangladesh board and government about the players' safety. Then Dickason spotted, on closedcircuit TV, a gunman in a black bandanna in the Fatullah crowd. He rushed towards him, heart in mouth, only to find that the man was a member of the government's Rapid Action Brigade, employed to protect the Australians. A keen cricket lover, he was using the telescopic sight on his rifle to get a better view. Dickason, relieved, persuaded him to desist.
The Bangladeshi people's sheer enthusiasm for the game made the Australians welcome. Matthew Hayden visited a market in Chittagong in preparation for his next cookery book, and found an army of admirers among the greens and goat's heads; Brett Lee was handed a wooden elephant by a schoolgirl who tracked him down at the hotel; and a journalist on Dhaka's leading English daily gushed about covering the tour's opening press conference as "a dream come true". Even the notoriously short-tempered Andrew Symonds worked out a strategy for dealing with eager fans - counting to ten before responding to autograph requests, especially during meals. Gillespie proclaimed his easy acceptance of a country he had always heard was "really awful".
On the field, Adam Gilchrist caused a fuss by giving sponsors free advertisements ("Ring home on your 3 mobile!") through the stump microphone, in a cunning bid to force television to turn down the volume and stop broadcasting the players' conversations. But it wasn't all talk: he patiently worked his way back into the runs with a match-turning century at Fatullah. Gillespie, discarded after the Ashes, made a triumphant comeback, with eight wickets, more than any other pace bowler, as well as his record-breaking innings. Stuart MacGill, who feared his touring days might soon be over, took 16 wickets, and constructed a new case for selection: he said his support could extend Warne's career. And the one-day series that concluded the tour unearthed two players for the future, off-spinner Dan Cullen and hulking batsman Mark Cosgrove. As the Australians slunk into a richly deserved four-month holiday, Ponting declared that all was in order again, not only for the Ashes in 2006-07 but also for the World Cup a few months later.
As for Bangladesh, the scoreline was a decent reflection of their standing in world cricket. They were exposed time and again not only by their lack of experience but also by their penchant for shirking discipline - with the bat, or their diet, oversleeping during a rain break, or having to be reminded to switch off their mobile phones during team meetings. But their occasionally inspired cricket raised hopes that they were beginning to learn their lessons.
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