Watch out for the Tigers!
Bangladesh has done well for itself and world cricket by winning against Australia. Well, how it is emerging as a force of good for world cricket keeps you mulling over!
Test format has been receding in the background in the face of surges from ODIs and T-20s—the shorter versions. The rage for instant cricket, like perhaps instant coffee, leaves a fleeting sense of satisfaction. Nothing sticks. Of course, the shorter version is revenue grabbing advert razzle-dazzle. I am not quite sure it helps with time management because you can pick and choose interesting time-slots to be at the stadium and not miss anything worthwhile in a Test match.
And, if the Dhaka Test between Bangladesh and Australia was anything to go by, it should revive some of the lost interest in Test cricket which brings out the best in the cricketers.
Who says, Test match is dull, drab and slow in yielding result? For each of the four days of the Mirpur Test has been full of excitement, suspense and drama—in an ascending order! The game was thoroughly competitive, keeping spectators and TV watchers alike to the edges of their seats. It never looked like being over till it was over; "the match could go either way," was the oft-repeated reminder from the cricket commentators!
But the "tested" better team won the day; Bangladesh deserved the victory, no matter that a pedigree-sensitive critic or two termed it an "upset". Espn cricinfo has given reasons why it considers that Bangladesh's win at Mirpur was not an upset. It referred to last year's England–Bangladesh series and the South Africa–Bangladesh encounters in July, 2015 to illustrate Bangladesh's records on a winning trajectory in Tests in the recent years. As for the home ground advantage, every team takes it by turn when hosting a side. So, why make fuss about sub-continental pitches?
It is true that 19 Australian wickets fell to the spinning attack by the Sakib-Mehedi-Taijul trio (one was run out), while Australian off-spinner Lyon picked up most of Bangladeshi wickets.
It was all rosy in the garden for Australia on Wednesday morning! The Aussies began the first session on the fourth day at 109 for 2. David Warner and Steve Smith, vice captain and captain respectively of the Australian side came on to the crease. As the most experienced pair of the team, the burden was on it to lead the team to an unassailable position.
Australia needing 156 runs to win in a 265-run chase, Warner and Smith just cruised along, pushing up the overnight score to a total of 158 for 2. With Warner out LBW off the bowling of Shakib, Steve Smith followed suit in quick succession, the two veterans leaving the score at 170 for four. Australia had to score 95 runs for a win with 6 wickets in hand.
The match, though evenly-poised, was potentially on a knife-edge with so many cliff-hanging moments having see-sawed between the two sides.
Thus, amid muffled sighs and moans among Bangladesh supporters as the crucial first hour for a breakthrough passed us by, and the opponent tantalisingly close to crossing the line, Shakib struck the game-changing blow.
Then on, wickets fell at regular intervals. Yet, just when some signs of resistance seemed to be peeking they were crushed with intelligent bowling and field–setting.
Soumya Sarkar has the genius for spectacular displays in fielding after batting debacles. He made up for his poor batting performance by taking two absolutely stunning catches by virtue of his acrobatic reflexes.
Shakib's bowling prowess was once again vindicated by his ten–wicket hauls in Test matches against three top Test playing nations now including Australia. His 84 runs in the first inning had helped set up a decent total.
No word of praise is sufficient for the intrepid Bangladesh Test skipper Mushfiqur Rahim. Apart from being a good humoured team man, he works on game-plans rhyming in with the changing complexions of a match. His decision to use Taijul was spot-on.
All said and done, Bangladesh has created cricketing history. The Tigers taking after the iconic Royal Bengal Tiger have proved themselves worthy of their name! They have beaten Australia for the first time since 2003 when Test series began between the two countries.
Out of four Test matches we had had with the Aussies before the latest ground-breaking Mirpur Test, Australia won three of them by innings and 80-132 runs and one by 3 wickets.
Of the four Test matches, two were on our home ground in 2006 yielding that 3-wicket victory to Australia topped up by an innings and 80 runs win over us by them.
So the first victory against Australia after 17 years of getting Test status is mind-lifting. Congrats to Team Bangladesh, BCCB and, above all, the coaching team comprising the best in the business.
Tempted to add just a footnote on a glimmer of fan maturity—a few Bangladeshis were seen holding up a placard reading, "Warner, we love you", when he was batting. Whether they are Australian citizens of Bangladeshi origin or not, it was fan goodwill gone international! Isn't small beautiful?
Shah Husain Imam is a commentator on current affairs and a former Associate Editor, The Daily Star.