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Country Reviews 2016

Dhaka dream, Bangalore nightmare

Bangladesh did not have a packed 2016, but they made the most of it for the most part

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Bangladesh were always going have a tough time following a superb 2015, especially with so few matches scheduled this year. But there was enough time to squeeze in some high-octane drama in the World T20, a memorable Test win, some mad batting collapses, and the sensational performance of teenage offspinner Mehedi Hasan.
Half the year was also spent in uncertainty following the terrorist attack in a café in Dhaka. Bangladesh could have been sidelined from hosting international cricket, but the ECB's decision to tour gave them a much-needed lifeline.
The team's first assignment this year was a four-match T20 series against Zimbabwe at home, which they drew 2-2. Coach Chandika Hathurusingha tried out many players in the series, with the Asia Cup and the World T20 in mind. While it resulted in some experimental XIs, it was a worthy exercise: Bangladesh reached the Asia Cup final after beating Sri Lanka for the first time in the format.
Sabbir Rahman showed his ability to bat at a rollicking pace, but the surprise package of the Asia Cup was Mahmudullah's six-hitting at crunch moments. Bangladesh couldn't get past India in the final, but they were better prepared for a tough World T20.
In the qualifying round of the World T20 in Dharamsala, they had to battle the weather and heightened expectations against Associate teams. But they gave strong performances against Netherlands, Ireland and Oman, with Tamim Iqbal becoming the first Bangladesh batsman to score a T20I hundred.
But the mood within the team was soured after Taskin Ahmed and Arafat Sunny were reported, and a few days before the main draw, suspended for illegal bowling actions. Mashrafe Mortaza looked like a broken man in the three-wicket defeat to Australia.
Bangladesh came very close to beating India in Bangalore before melting down. A target of 11 off the last over was brought down to two off the final three balls by Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim. But then both were caught while going for unnecessary big hits, and the new batsmen, Shuvagata Hom and Mustafizur Rahman, couldn't even complete a single to tie the game with India. In Bangladesh's next game, against New Zealand, Mustafizur produced a five-wicket haul, but they needed seven months before they could forget the heartbreak of Bangalore.
Bangladesh's future as an international cricket host came into question after the July 1 terror attack on a café left several dead, including many foreigners. Luckily for Bangladesh, Andrew Strauss, England's director of cricket, wanted to help out a fellow cricketing nation, and so England eventually decided to tour in October, as planned.
Before England's visit, Afghanistan came to play an ODI series in late September, which Bangladesh won 2-1. Taskin got a four-wicket haul in his first game after the ICC cleared his action.
England arrived and remained cocooned within an unprecedented security cordon throughout their stay. The whole nation felt a sense of relief when the matches began after months of speculation and security inspections. But soon they were annoyed by a batting collapse that cost the home side the first ODI. Needing 39 runs off 8.3 overs, Bangladesh lost their last six wickets for 17 runs.
Mortaza's all-round performance helped them win the second match by 34 runs, but in the series decider, Chittagong's infamous evening dew took the game away from the Bangladesh spinners after the batsmen had posted a competitive 277.
Bangladesh turned around fast for the Test series. Mehedi Hasan emerged from Under-19 cricket to take 6 for 80 in his debut innings, in Chittagong. On a sporting pitch, the Test swung back and forth. England used reverse swing very well towards the end of the fourth day, but Sabbir Rahman and Taijul Islam pushed ahead towards the 286-run target, and Bangladesh began the fifth morning needing 33 more. However, Taijul and then Shafiul Islam fell inside the first four overs of the day. Sabbir was stranded on 64 - not too bad for his Test debut - and England won a thriller.
Bangladesh bounced back in the Dhaka Test. Tamim made a superb 104 in the first innings, after which Mehedi took 6 for 82 to limit England to a 24-run lead. But it was his second-innings six-wicket haul that sealed Bangladesh's maiden Test win over England.
At the end of the year, Bangladesh travelled to New Zealand, where they lost a three-match ODI series; they will rue missing out on opportunities to dominate the home side.
Off the field, there were conflict-of-interest controversies within the board, questionable umpiring in the domestic competitions, and a selection revamp that could have repercussions for the next 12 months. But Bangladesh will still mark 2016 as a successful year, when apart from the Test win, their Under-19s also made it to the semi-final of the World Cup, held at home after 12 years.
High point
A maiden Test win against England in Dhaka was an achievement that trumped the other big milestones Bangladesh have reached in the last two years. It was an even contest till the second session on the third day. Having raced to 100 for no loss at tea on day three, England lost all ten wickets in the last session. Shakib Al Hasan took four wickets to Mehedi's six. That regular captain Mushfiqur didn't call the shots in the last session was noticed by many people. It was explained as a team decision, but it raised more questions about Mushfiqur's leadership.
Low point
A win over India in the World T20 game in Bangalore would have given the Bangladesh players a major boost in confidence, but instead it turned into a nightmare they will try hard to forget.
New kid on the block
After Mehedi won the Man-of-the-Tournament award in this year's U-19 World Cup, there were big expectations from him. His calm demeanour under pressure was visible during the World Cup. In his debut Test he showed patience and a killer instinct. His haul of 19 wickets is a Bangladesh record for most wickets in a Test series.
Fading star
Left-arm spinner Mosharraf Hossain's comeback to the Bangladesh team after eight years lasted only two matches. He took 3 for 24 against Afghanistan, but when in the first ODI against England he dropped a simple catch and bowled three wicketless overs, he wasn't picked again in the series. Given that he is already 35, that's probably the last we'll see of Mosharraf at the international level.
What 2017 holds
After doing so well at home for the last two years, Bangladesh's challenges now move abroad. They will start the busy year in New Zealand, playing T20s and Tests. Two weeks later, in February, they will play their first Test in India. Bangladesh are also scheduled to tour Sri Lanka in February or March, after which they head to Ireland for a tri-series in May and to England for the Champions Trophy in June. Talks are on for possible visits by Australia and Pakistan in July and August before Bangladesh go to South Africa for their first tour there in nine years.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84