Vol. 5 Num 377 Sun. June 19, 2005  
Front Page

Tigers turn world upside down
Ashraful hits epic ton to hand Aussies 5wkt upset

For once Bangladesh is on the top of the world and a little Mohammad Ashraful is the darling of Cardiff where his magnificent hundred pulled off the biggest upset in the annals of one-day cricket.

History was made at Sophia Gardens in a most stunning fashion when Aftab Ahmed hit the first ball of the final over for a magnificent six and then sneaked a single off the next delivery and with that Bangladesh toppled world champions Australia by five wickets.

Instantly, a small yet proud section of Bangladesh supporters, who had been relentlessly waving the red and green national flag and honking horns, rushed to the pitch.

It was Bangladesh's tenth win in their 108th ODI appearance and their first against the mighty Australians, and they did not think of a better time to achieve that when their very existence in cricket's top flight had been going through a torrid time.

There was also conviction the manner in which they defeated Australia. Chasing 250 to win, Bangladesh batted like true professionals with Ashraful leading the way with a poetic 101-ball 100.

The little genius, who scored a first-ball duck in the first game against England, started in the most unconvincing fashion-- blocking the first delivery from left-arm spinner Brad Hogg like a novice. The ball went through his pads and missed the leg stump by a whisker.

But that was the only discomforting moment for the youngest Test centurion on debut. From then on it was music in the ear whenever he took the aerial route over cover, paddled sweep down the vacant third man, played a delicate flick seeing a short fine leg.

Ashraful raced to his fifty with a glorious drive through the covers against none other than Glenn McGrath and off only 58 balls. The 20-year-old right-hander, however, needed a slice of luck to become only the second Bangladesh batsman to score a one-day hundred after Mehrab Hossain way back in 1999.

Ashraful drove a single off the last ball of the 47th over to mid-off and then punched his bat in the air as the whole stadium saluted the ground-breaking performer. He faced exactly 100 deliveries for his hundred that included 11 boundaries.

His record partnership for the fourth wicket with skipper Habibul Bashar yielded 130 runs, bettered the 115 made between Bashar and Sanwar Hossain against Zimbabwe in 2001. Although Bashar is a compulsive stroke-maker, the Bangladesh captain rightly decided to play second fiddle before he was unfortunately run out in the 44th over, leaving the score at 204-4.When Ashraful was eventually out in the 48th over-- caught at long-on off Gillespie -- Bangladesh still needed 23 runs from 17 deliveries.

But the pressure was immediately released when Mohammad Rafique hoisted the first ball for four through cover and Aftab flicked one down to the third man boundary.

The match reached the breathtaking last over with Bangladesh needing 7 runs from the last six deliveries of Gillespie, who conceded just 17 runs in his first six overs.

In-form Aftab Ahmed smote a towering six off the first ball of the last over to ensure that Bangladesh cannot lose the nerve-wrecking second match of the NatWest Series. The diminutive youngster then scampered to the other end playing on to the pad to trigger a wild celebration by Bangladeshis all over the world.

"It was great shot in the arm and a huge effort and today's performance reassured that we are in international cricket we might not win every game but we are very much belong to this family", said Bangladesh Dav Whatmore whose phone was ringing ceaseless.

"If we do few thing correctly which we did today we can put the pressure on the opposition. It was good to see our batsmen did not panic which they often do and build on partnership. We saw a great partnership between the captain and Ashraful and this is a historic winning game for Bangladesh", said the Bangladesh coach.

Man-of-the-match Ashraful could express little while talking to the reporters. He however told an interesting story.

"I was not getting runs and it was very frustrating for me. Whenever looked at my statistics I wondered if I'm that bad. I rang my mother last night and was seeking some solace. But I laughed a lot when she said you are very small compared to the people you are playing against. So, it's not possible for you to do well", said a very excited Ashraful.

An elated Mohammad Ashraful, left, exults after hitting his maiden ODI ton; Bangladesh supporters, right, celebrate their fairytale victory over Australia at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff. PHOTO: AFP