Bangladesh end a four-year wait for their maiden Test victory as they record a win against Zimbabwe in Chittagong…
On a day when cricket was at the forefront of sport with the Tsunami relief match taking place in Melbourne, Bangladesh overcame the odds, removed the shackles from their feet and won their first Test match.
On the verge of their 226-run victory, with just one more Zimbabwean wicket needed, bowler Mashrafe Mortaza had tears in his eyes and was unable to take his run-up until he had calmed himself down.
But the team managed to put their emotions aside for a moment, as 18-year-old left-arm spinner Enamul Haque Jr, came of age, taking the final wicket to give his countrymen the feeling of joy and happiness that they had never felt before.
At a time where parts of the country had been devastated by the Tsunami, this victory offered a ray of light to the many Bangladeshi citizens who just wanted the feeling of winning a match to remove the tag of Test no-hopers.
Skipper Habibul Bashar achieved the dream of leading his team to their first victory in Test cricket and expectedly, was joyous but humble in victory, praising his players rather than himself for their victory.
Bashar, the country’s leading run scorer who top scored in both innings, said: “It is the best day of my life. I will never forget that I was a member of the side that won the maiden Test for the country. I am just happy to be in this team.”
Bashar expressed happiness for all the work the team had put in to claim victory. He added: “We have been working really hard for this moment, and I give credit to all my team-mates. It’s tough when you keep losing. But everything is looking a lot easier already. We had a superb first innings with everybody contributing that set up the win. It was a unique team effort.”
Bashar reserved special praise for Enamul Haque Jr, who took five wickets on the last day to set up victory.
He said: “Enamul is an outstanding bowler. He was a bit tense in the first innings, but came back later to show his potential. We now have two class spinners in Mohammed Rafique and Enamul.”
However, the main praise has to be reserved for the eccentric Australian coach, Dav Whatmore, who has rejuvenated the once condemned cricketing nation into the young pretenders who are now beginning to deliver.
Bashar said that Whatmore, former coach of Sri Lanka, had revolutionised the team’s mentality and instilled belief in them.
These words echo those of former Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga, who lifted the World Cup in 1996 under the guidance of Whatmore, beating Australia in the final.
Under the Aussie coach, the Sri Lankan’s showed innovation in their batting, blasting the ball to all corners of the ground in the first 15 overs, with Sanath Jayasuriya, still going strong at the age of 35.
Whatmore, in his own down-to-earth way, had great words to say for his team rather than himself.
He said: “It is my best day as Bangladesh coach. I give full credit to the boys because it was a hard-fought match. It was very satisfying victory. Our boys have shown great effort.
Whatmore also reserved special tribute for his captain, Bashar. “It helps to have a captain who understands the needs of his players. He is not a dictator, he is a democratic captain and he talks to all his players from time to time.”
Bangladesh fully deserve the praise that is being heaped on them for winning their first Test match, be it against under-strength opposition in Zimbabwe.
But before the Tigers Test match with Zimbabwe started, Bangladesh had played 34 Tests, drawing three and losing the rest. In five years, Bangladesh had not produced a victory and many people were becoming impatient.
The small south-Asian country’s Test status was even in jeopardy as they faced having their Test status revoked because many said they were simply not good enough to compete in the Test arena.
But many were forgetting that New Zealand, a well-respected cricketing nation and a solid outfit, took 45 matches to record their first victory, and India, arguably the dominant Asian cricketing country, took 19 years for their maiden Test win.
Over the years, the more established nations have taken the game to new levels and added new dimensions to cricket.
Australia have led the way in assaulting opposition bowlers’ figures, scoring at a rate of four runs per over.
Wicketkeepers like Australia’s Adam Gilchrist, Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakarra and England’s Geraint Jones not only crouch behind the stumps and stop the ball, but prove the difference between a mediocre total and a match-winning score with the bat.
Spinners are more than just bowlers to plug the run-rate or eat up overs, the likes of Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan and Danish Kaneria are proven match-winners and are often successful where the quicker bowlers are not.
Bangladesh entered the game at a time where they were given no chance to develop their talent and blend into the scene. The opening batsmen failed to occupy the crease for long periods, and their middle order failed to get runs at a consistent rate,
The 10th of November 2000 was the date of Bangladesh’s inauguration to the Test arena with a one-off match at home at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in the capital Dhaka. They faced the mighty Indian team which boasted the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Javagal Srinath.
Early signs were pretty good as the Tigers’ won the toss and totalled 400, with Aminul Islam scoring a massive 145, backed up by 71 runs from captain Bashar, and double-figure contributions further down the order.
The home side struggled to pick up wickets, but restricted India to a small lead and then the oh-so-inevitable happened.
The promise they showed in the first innings was too good to be true and with an almighty bang, Bangladesh suffered a crushing nine wicket defeat in their first Test match.
The past year has been good for Bangladesh cricket, but their maiden Test win could have come earlier against neighbours Pakistan in Multan. Pakistan were saved by skipper and prolific batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq, who in front of his home crowed, scraped his team home with a one-wicket victory.
Another great achievement came with the victory at the ICC Under-19 world cup, when the young Tigers beat the Aussies in convincing fashion.
But the biggest sign of things to come was their defeat of India in a recent one day international in Dhaka. They outplayed and out-thought their opposition in every department.
The Tigers will now be looking to press on and complete a 2-0 series whitewash and then move onto England, with another two series, playing at Lord’s and Chester-le-Street in Durham.
England have a far-superior and established side but after their gruelling tour of South Africa, they may suffer from fatigue and tiredness and most of the English players have made it clear that their main aim is to take back the Ashes.
This mentality could lead to complacency for the home team and Bangladesh, under the guidance of Bashar and Whatmore, will surely have the guile and the belief to take advantage of any slip up from the home side.