Mashrafe Mortaza was inspirational throughout the day and collected the Man-of-the-Match award on a historic day at Dhaka
The Bangla tiger bared its claws, stretched every sinew in its body and
roared so loudly that the packed stands at the Bangabandhu Stadium were
stunned. They will never forget their 100th one-day international no matter
how many losses or wins flow under the bridge in the years to come. It was a magical evening that swept aside years of gloom and heartache and imbued a cricket-crazy nation with a fervour that will linger on forever.
It should matter little that India had chosen to rest four of their big guns
because Bangladesh played like a team possessed. Little could have India
have imagined the manner in which their opponents clutched to every small
chance, squeezed out every run possible, and turned in a fielding
performance that will stand up to the severest scrutiny.
The sum of parts is sometimes greater than the whole, and Mashrafe Mortaza
and Aftab Ahmed, with a little help from their friends, showed that the
impossible does happen. Aftab's audacity with the bat reminded the cricket
world of the power of youth. Unburdened by the fact that Bangladesh have
lost all but three of the one-dayers they have played, unconcerned for the
reputation of the giants in the opposition, he batted with unadulterated
freedom. There were approximately 40,000 people crammed into the stands, and
seemingly an equal number chanting 'Bangla-desh! Bangla-desh!' at every
little turn, and the sound reached a crescendo when Aftab pulled Joginder
Sharma for an authoritative six over deep backward square-leg.
But, the fireworks of Aftab and Mohammad Ashraful, who also hit a similar
six off Zaheer Khan, were merely the markers that kept the crowd interested
in the game. When Aftab was out, Bangladesh, whose top order failed once
more, only had 168 on the board, in the 38th over. With seven wickets down,
India still had a chance to restrict Bangladesh to something in the range of
Then, Tapash Baisya and Morataza, a man you could barely keep out of the
game for ten minutes, clattered 32 runs for the ninth wicket, pushing India's
fast bowlers to the brink of desperation with innovative and clean hitting.
And yet, no-one in the Indian camp would have been seriously worried, for
230 was eminently chasable on a wicket which merely lacked pace.
But then strange things began to happen under the lights. Not with the ball,
the pitch, or the outfield, but with the Bangladesh team. When Mortaza,
nostrils flaring like a bull about to gore a matador, steamed through
Virender Sehwag's defences, it was game on. Bangladesh began to sense that
December 26 could be a red-letter day in their cricketing history.
Dav Whatmore's pleas for discipline had not fallen on deaf ears
From then on, no effort was spared in the field, and the manner in which
Mortaza and Baisya controlled their line and length showed that Dav
Whatmore's pleas for discipline had not fallen on deaf ears. Glenn
McGrath and Jason Gillespie would have been proud of the manner in which
this pair bowled to a 6-3 off-side field.
The wickets then fell with such regularity through direct hits that homed
in on the stumps, through big fast bowlers latching onto screamers in the
outfield and through nifty glovework behind the stumps that Sridharan
Sriram was forced to be even more dour than his usual self and eke out 57
from 91 balls. The manner in which he struggled to even rotate the strike
was a measure of the control Bangladesh exercised on the Indian batsmen.
Aftab, fittingly, nailed the win with a direct hit from point and months of
painful suffering for a nation had been lifted. There was nothing about the
passage of play that could be used to discredit Bangladesh's win. The idiots
who, even in jest, refer to any Bangladesh win as a result of some shady
dealings, had nothing to hold onto. The cynics, who are forever looking for
umpiring mistakes to mask the true worth of a performance, can look at
replays forever, and they will find nothing to complain about. The
pessimists, who question Whatmore's ways, have to shut up, at least for the
On the day, Bangladesh were simply the better side. No-one can take that
away from Habibul Bashar and his crew.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo.