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     Volume 4 Issue 52 | June 24, 2005 |

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Bangladesh takes Out the Champs

Imran H. Khan

As I was returning home from work, my neighbourhood shook with echoes of what had to be the sound of collective screams. At first, I thought it was a mugging of some sort that triggered the chaos and my first intuition was of running away. I am a firm believer in the saying: "He who witnesses a fight and runs away, lives to see some other fight some other day." My second thought was that I had to know which direction to run off to, as I did not want to land into trouble. As my eyes searched the scene, they fell on a group of people huddled close together, looking closely at a television monitor inside a shop. Oh! A cricket game was on and it was the reigning world champions -- the Australian side -- versus the Bangladeshi side. Since I am not much of a cricket fan, I did not even bother to check on the scores. Also, my home team had not been performing up to par and watching them get beaten every time was a bitter pill I had stopped swallowing quite some time back.

Once I got home and turned on the television, I heard another round of roars. I quickly changed channels and found my way to the match. What a score! Ricky Ponting's Australia were 249 for 5 while Bangladesh were chasing them and were just 220 for 4. Mohammad Ashraful was batting and he was close to his century with Aftab Ahmed on the bowling end. Bangladesh needed 30 runs to win out from about four overs. This was as close as Bangladesh ever got to Australia. I had to make a few phone calls to know some more match details.

This was the second match in the NatWest Series 2005 at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff. Australia had won the toss and decided to bat first.

Their idea was probably to accumulate a gigantic score and then bully the boys in green with their bowling assault. All hell broke loose for Australia from the start of the match as Adam Gilchrist was lbw simply on the second ball of the match. That made a large dent on Australia's batting line. The dent soon became a crack when Captain Ricky Ponting's wicket fell in the middle of the fifth over. Australia managed to make a comeback but despite their batting, they only managed to get a mere 249 on the scorecard.

Once Bangladesh was on the pitch, they played like professionals, not being scared of the mammoth bowling pace of Australia. The likes of McGrath and Gillespie did little to hamper the spirits of the young Bangladeshi side. Ashraful lead the batting side to a 250 for 5 with Ashraful being crowned the man-of-the-match with a poetic 100 run off just 101 balls. On the first game, Ashraful scored a first-ball duck against England. The 20-year-old right-hander had a shaky start to this game as well but once he had adjusted to the slow pitch, he proved to be a fine batsman and went on to become the second Bangladesh batsman to score a one-day hundred. It was only befitting that Ashraful reached his century which he did with a single off the last ball of the 47th over. He faced exactly 100 deliveries for his hundred that included 11 boundaries. He raised his bat to the audience and the whole field echoed with cheers. He then got down on all fours and kissed the pitch -- a true a moment to cherish for this youngster. His record partnership for the fourth wicket with skipper Habibul Bashar yielded 130 runs.

Ashraful's wicket finally fell in the 48th over when he was caught. Bangladesh still needed 23 runs from 17 deliveries. The pressure was evident all around the field. Even a visibly tense coach Dav Whatmore was seen looking on from the Bangladeshi locker as he waited for an amazing victory. The match reached its climatic peak in the last over when Bangladesh needed just seven runs from the last six deliveries of Gillespie, the top bowler of the game. Everything was quiet...only Gillespies run up was heard over the chilling silence. The tension was shattered when Aftab Ahmed blasted a towering six off the first ball to put Bangladesh a step ahead of the mind-game. This youngster then scurried to the other end taking a risky run but that last run was enough to make history, Bangladesh had outplayed the cricketing giants and the joy echoed all over the world.

In an instance a chilling cry came from deep within me. I could not help but scream, the joy and ecstasy that had been long due, bottled up inside all Bangladeshis. What a stunning victory! The first thing that I had to do was call up all my friends and tell them that history had just been written. All the while my eyes were glued to the television screen, looking at the small Bangladeshi crowd at Sophia Gardens stadium all on the pitch now, jumping with joy along with the players waving the nation's flag. For one day, the field of Cardiff was covered in red and green. For one magnificent moment, all players, fans and spectators had but one thought going through them… We beat the champs! We beat the champs!

The man-of-the-match was undoubtedly Ashraful with his stunning century but coach Dav Whatmore had a lot to say about his team. "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 very much belong to this family". As I had so bluntly put it, I have again got back into the pill-swallowing act and well, some pills 'are' good for you. Ricky Ponting had abruptly summed up the entire match from Australia's perspective: "This could be the biggest upset in the history of the game." From my perspective, I would say this is the beginning of a new history.

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