The youngsters are learning very quickly, and especially we have a good four-day structure at home. That’s the best thing done by the cricket board.
Everything was working fine for Bangladesh on the fifth day of their one-off Test against Afghanistan until the rain that had marred most of the day’s play, seeming to answer most Bangladesh players’ and fans’ prayers, stopped and play resumed at 4:20 pm with 18.3 overs more to be played at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium yesterday.
Afghanistan, who had dominated the game for the four previous days, just needed that bit of luck and time to wrap up the game. They went on to pick up a mammoth 224-run victory -- their second Test victory ever and indeed a very well deserved one -- with just 3.2 overs left in the day.
Bangladesh -- a team that were playing their 115th Test -- have endured defeats of much larger magnitude since their introduction to the format back in 2000. But this 224-run thumping at the hands of a team just playing their third Test may well be the most humiliating one till date.
The fact that Bangladesh’s name comes up five times -- more than any other team -- in the list of the 20 largest defeats in Tests shows that the Tigers have scars aplenty in the format. West Indies thumped Bangladesh by an innings and 310 runs -- the seventh largest innings win in Tests -- during the sides’ first ever meeting in the format in Dhaka back in December 2002. Although the Tigers were clearly outclassed in that game, no one even entertained the notion that Bangladesh would pose a threat to a side playing their 392nd Test and boasting 142 Test wins while the Tigers were still rookies in the format, playing in just their 16th Test.
Next on the inauspicious list comes the defeat to Pakistan by an innings and 264 runs in Multan in 2001. The margin of defeat was much larger than yesterday’s one but was it really shocking? The answer would be no. Playing against a side that boasted the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar and Inzamam-ul-Haq did not really leave much of a chance for a side playing their fourth Test and still trying to come to terms with the nuances of the format.
More recently, Bangladesh were bundled out for 43 -- their lowest ever total and the 11th lowest ever in Test history -- by West Indies when the Tigers toured the Caribbean in July 2018. However, the match that ended with Bangladesh being beaten by an innings and 219 runs in foreign conditions still does not surpass the level of humiliation that the Tigers suffered at the hands of Afghanistan over the past five days.
In none of the aforementioned scenarios were the Tigers considered favourites. The one-off Test against Afghanistan was one of the rare occasions when they were considered favourites and Bangladesh faltered like never before. Afghanistan outplayed Bangladesh in every department. Skipper Rashid Khan had a clear plan from Day One while Tigers’ captain Shakib Al Hasan could only say that he had expected the wicket to aid his team more. The likes of Ibrahim Zadran, Rahmat Shah and Asghar Afghan showed how to be patient and pick their shots in such conditions.
More importantly, Afghanistan portrayed intent, aggression – all of which the Tigers lacked -- to win the game. And they were able to inflict wounds the like of which the Tigers had never suffered before and left scars that are much deeper than they have ever experienced.
The gulf in experience between the two sides was prominent – with Bangladesh having played 112 Tests more than Afghanistan -- but it was Afghanistan who looked more mature while the Tigers looked like novices. And while the Tigers’ lapses in Test cricket came to the fore a number of times in the past, those could be somewhat be justified as almost every time Bangladesh were underdogs. However, this defeat just exposed the huge gaps that Bangladesh still need to fill if they are to make any progress in the format.