Vol. 4 Num 61 Sat. July 26, 2003  

Terrific Tigers

This isn't just what Dav Whatmore has been waiting for -- it's what Bangladesh cricket has been longing for.

A true display of what the Tigers can do.

In lasting a full day of hostile bowling, on a pitch predicted to favour speedsters, the Tigers didn't just face their foes down, they showed their fangs for the first time in international Test cricket.

Finishing the day on 289 for eight, Bangladesh demonstrated for the first time at this level of the game that they have what it takes: The capacity to knuckle down, concentrate and hold themselves against the best in the world.

Winning the toss, Australia adopted the killer approach they did in Darwin -- hoping to monster and stomp Test cricket minnows into crumbling before the sharpest speed attack in the world.

Australia captain Steve Waugh -- while warning not to underestimate the Bangladesh -- signalled to Australian media that his strategy was simple: Destroy Bangladesh confidence so early in the game they would never recover.

It didn't work, and the fall of wickets demonstrates this.

Javed Omar didn't fall till 47 runs were on the board, the second wicket of Habibul Bashar did not go till the Tigers were on 155. These early partnerships were a joy to watch, and clearly frustrated the Australians.

As commentator Tony Greig called it, "there are few teams in the world who could start as well as this."

And the comparisons are worth making. In their last tour of Australia, the English side were dismissed for less than the current Bangladesh innings no fewer than five times, from a miserable 79 to a 270 all out -- and this is from the Test side currently rated number three in the world. And at an all day run rate of 3.21 runs per over, the Tigers showed they were up there with current best practice in international cricket.

Of course there were disappointments. Despite playing a brilliant game, Hannan Sarker was unfortunate not to hang out for his century -- it was something he deserved. His beautiful wrist play led to most of his nine boundaries.

But the fact that three other batsmen -- Habibul Bashar, Sanwar Hossain and Khaled Mashud -- each missed out by a whisker from achieving half tons says as much about closeness to success as much as it did to Bangladesh's worrying lack of concentration at crucial moments. Each batted well enough to get there, but failed at the final post.

But it must be remembered that the Cairns pitch has been predicted all week to be a bowler's paradise: green with enough bounce to endanger any batsman. The Australians bowled poorly for the most part: Brett Lee was slogged at 1-88 with ten no balls, and only Stuart MacGill with 5-77 demonstrated any effective perseverance, and world champion bowler Glenn McGrath was costly at 0-51. The fact that Waugh and Lehman bowled eight overs between the pair demonstrated Australian frustration at dismissing Bangladesh.

The Australians now have a problem.

Even assuming they can clean up the Tigers cheaply this morning, they will not want to face the ignominy of batting twice against the world's least experienced Test side. On that count they will want to bat out for at least 450-500 runs to have at least some sense of safety in face-saving.

This would suggest the game will at least extend well into the third day: So much for those who have dismissed Bangladesh as easy beats.

At 407-7 declared in their innings in Darwin, they cannot necessarily guarantee such a total if Bangladesh bowl and field as tightly as they did in the Northern Territory. Waugh declared the moment he hit his record breaking century, but he only had his tail at his side with Manjural Islam having dismissed average 50+ run-maker Adam Gilchrist cheaply for 43.

The discipline the Tigers' batsmen have demonstrated this time around must be repeated in the field today.

DARING ON DAY ONE: (L) Hannan Sarker returns to the pavilion after his superb 76. (C) Habibul Bashar pulls. (R) Sanwar Hossain on the attack. Both Bashar and Sanwar made 46. Photos: AFP