At Mirpur, October 28-30, 2016. Bangladesh won by 108 runs. Toss: Bangladesh. Test debut: Z. S. Ansari.
Bangladesh's first Test victory over England was a triumph of planning, skill and derring-do. It was fashioned by two cricketers - one well known to the tourists at the start of their trip, the other cunningly kept out of view. Tamim Iqbal, a frequent tormentor of England, scored 144 runs on a pitch that would
have had any self-respecting spinner salivating. Somehow, he made it look like a road; when the rest were batting, it resembled a sandpit. Less familiar, at least until the First Test, was Mehedi Hasan, just turned 19, who had been omitted from Bangladesh's one day side against Afghanistan a few days before England's arrival so that they remained unaware of his talents. After seven wickets at Chittagong, Mehedi finished with 12 for 159 here, Bangladesh's best match figures, beating Enamul Haque's 12 for 200 against Zimbabwe across Dhaka at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in January 2005. Mehedi mesmerised the English batsmen with pure orthodoxy. Allied to a fervour for the game that had him lapping up his coaches' every word, this suggested he would be integral to Bangladesh cricket for the next decade or more.
Here was another Test whose outcome was pleasingly hard to predict almost until the end. After Tamim's brilliant first-day century, the match was often a trial for batsmen as the ball spun or skidded. Not long after lunch on the third day, England were set an unlikely 273 for victory. By tea they were 100 for none. An hour and fifty minutes later they were all out for 164, and the Bangladesh side - along with a host of supporters who had suddenly swelled the crowd - were rejoicing in a historic victory. It was the first time England had lost all ten in a session since Headingley 1938 against Australia. Mehedi caused most of the havoc, with the canny Shakib Al Hasan backing him up.
The result was an expression of Bangladesh's burgeoning self-confidence. By preparing spin-friendly tracks, they demonstrated their willingness to lose in pursuit of a win. The draw was of little interest. In the past, they might have preferred docile surfaces, aimed at runs and - in theory, at least - respectability. Now they sought to exploit England's Achilles heel. Bangladesh's slow bowlers - now numbering four specialists, after Shuvagata Hom replaced seamer Shafiul Islam - proved more accurate and accomplished than England's, and several of their batsmen were more adept at counteracting the spinning ball, usually with aggressive intent.
Their positive thinking might have emanated from head coach Chandika Hathurusinghe, and it streamed through the entire squad. The result gave him a unique double: in March 1993, he had been part of the first Sri Lankan side to achieve a Test victory over England, in Colombo. Here, he delivered some well-chosen words at tea on the third day, just when Bangladesh seemed to be squandering a golden opportunity. Hathurusinghe had overseen a fine campaign with panache, sanctioning the idea of tossing the second over of the series to Mehedi.
Bangladesh had the benefit of batting first and, after the early loss of Imrul Kayes, who cut a short ball from Woakes straight to point, Tamim batted sublimely, with lively support from Mominul Haque. The seamers - including Finn, playing for the rested Stuart Broad - were pulled or caressed off the front foot; the spinners were often treated with disdain, as Tamim drifted down the pitch for another extravagant drive. Test debutant Zafar Ansari,
who had replaced his county captain Gareth Batty, yielded 13 runs from his first over of left-arm spin. And it really wasn't a bad one.
Together this pair added 170, easily the highest partnership of the series, whereupon Tamim was out tamely, shortly after reaching his eighth Test century with successive lofted extra-cover drives off Ali. Having put every English bowler to the sword, with the exception of the miserly Stokes, he opted to pad up to Ali, and was lbw. Ali was, by a disturbing margin, England's best spinner, and soon a rare straight delivery defeated Mominul, part of a collapse in which Bangladesh lost their last nine for 49.
Cook had finally found a potent combination of spin and pace: Ali - who finished with his second Test five-for, more than two years after his first - and Stokes. It meant the stand between Tamim and Mominul accounted for 77.27% of the Bangladesh total - the second-highest for a completed Test innings, behind the 77.78% of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene (168 out of 216) at Durban in 2000-01. It would prove decisive.
England could have ended the day on a high, but stuttered to 50 for three. Duckett hit his third ball, from Shakib, over long-on, then fell to his fifth, while Mehedi defeated Cook and Ballance. On the second morning, the only resistance came from Root, who survived a drop at slip on 19 by Mahmudullah to hit a dutiful half-century, and Bairstow. When Root was out, they were 144 for eight, only for Woakes and Rashid - happy to glean
singles from a strangely deep-set field - to put on 99, England's highest ninth-wicket stand in Asia.
Woakes had an extraordinary escape on 38 against the occasional wrist-spin of Sabbir Rahman. He received a high full toss, which would have been deemed ugly on the village green. Unsure whether to smash it for four or six, he hit it straight to short midwicket, and set off towards the pavilion, crestfallen and angry. But the TV umpire, Chris Gaffaney, decreed it would have passed him above hip height, and was therefore a no-ball. This seemed an affront to natural justice, since the regulation had been introduced only because of the proliferation of high full tosses from seamers towards the end of limited-overs games. Had Gaffaney used the ball-tracking data, he might have deemed the delivery legal.
Against the odds, England acquired a first-innings lead of 24, but were no more successful at containing Bangladesh than in the first innings. Despite the vagaries of the surface, the runs ticked along at five an over. Tamim was again irrepressible, Kayes unfurled a variety of sweeps, and Mahmudullah was majestic - until the last ball of the day, when he had a horrible heave at Ansari and was bowled. This was Ansari's second Test wicket, his first (Tamim) having come courtesy of a sharp catch at leg slip by an increasingly desperate England captain.
Bangladesh led by 128 at the close, and continued to attack next day. Eventually Cook turned to Rashid, apparently as a last resort. The runs kept flowing, but wickets fell at regular intervals, despite four dropped catches, which ranged from the practically impossible (Finn, back-pedalling at mid-off, when Mushfiqur Rahim had six) to the utterly routine (Duckett at deep midwicket, when Shakib had 23). England also made a hash
of DRS, twice failing to review lbw shouts from Ali which would have brought a wicket. As tempers frayed, Stokes overheated in a duel with Sabbir, which cost him 15% of his match fee.
England were left needing 64 more than they had successfully chased in the fourth innings of a Test in Asia, yet by tea they had taken 100 from just 23 overs. Duckett played a brave, barnstorming innings. Twice in an over he reverse-swept Shakib to the boundary, and meted out similar treatment to Mehedi. Cook cruised along in his wake. The pitc seemed to be having a siesta.
Everything changed after the interval. Duckett was bowled by the first ball of the session, a skidder from Mehedi, and England became paralysed. Apart from the openers, Stokes alone reached double figures. Ballance failed again, jeopardising his position in a team that now looked ill-equipped to take on India. Shakib hastened the conclusion with three wickets in four balls, saluting the crowd after bowling Stokes, invoking Marlon Samuels in Grenada the previous year.
But, appropriately, it was Mehedi who claimed the last wicket. When umpire Dharmasena's finger was raised - which in this series was never a sure sign of a batsman's dismissal - the Bangladesh side celebrated wildly, while Finn sought a review without realising England had none left. It was a sad little vignette, highlighting their haplessness. Mehedi became just the third bowler to take a six-wicket haul in each of his first two Tests, after Alec Bedser and Narendra Hirwani.
Mushfiqur hoped this would be a landmark victory, pleading with the ICC to "send us series against the big boys". Cook managed a sense of perspective. "People need to come here and play cricket," he said. "You can see their development. It's not easy for me to say, but it's a good win for Bangladesh cricket. Maybe some things are bigger than one game."
Man of the Match: Mehedi Hasan. Man of the Series: Mehedi Hasan.