By Quazi Zulquarnin Islam
Yours truly was on the phone chatting away with a friend of mine while at the same time (like a million others I'm sure) watching the progress of the Bangladesh cricket team against Australia. Bangladesh were making encouraging strides as they had got rid of the "most dangerous player in the world" Adam Gilchrist in the first over. And aided by an inspiring spell of fast bowling from pace spearhead Mashrafee Bin Mortaza, had the Aussies on the ropes in the opening period.
Me, and my friend, both being realists, did not expect it to continue this way. It was however at this moment that an interesting statistic flashed on the screen. It showed that the team batting first had never won a match at Cardiff. Inspired by this my friend made a wager- if Bangladesh managed to win this match, he would treat me at any restaurant of my choice. I instantly agreed knowing full well that this was a bet I had nothing to lose from. I warned him though, more in tones of mirth, than anything else, if truth be told, knowing full well that anything like this would never come to pass.
But what materialized on this swelteringly hot summers day would leave us, and a score others gape mouthed and unbelieving. In a game that epitomized David vs Goliath in every sense of the word, Bangladesh proceeded to upset the Aussie applecart in what is certainly the biggest upset ever in a One Day International.
Yep! Read it again gentlemen (and ladies), Bangladesh whose record reads a miserly P107 W9, L96 have just beaten Australia, the triple World Champions and in all probability the greatest crop of players ever to walk cricket's green fields. Never in the history of international cricket has there been a greater giant-slaying act than the one just witnessed at Sophia Gardens.
The protagonist of this epic tale was undoubtedly Mohammed Ashraful. Arguably the most talented batsman in the Bangladesh team, Ashraful had been much criticized throughout the tour for his woeful performances. Even in the last match against England he had returned for a first ball duck. However, in this game, Ashraful played like a man possessed, a true match winner in every sense. He timed his innings to perfection wonderfully supported by captain Habibul Bashar. He picked the singles and in between punted a few shots to the fence and when the time came to accelerate he did so with aplomb. When the pint sized player got to his hundred (off a hundred balls) it marked only the second time that a Bangladeshi player had managed to reach three figures in an ODI match, the other occasion being when the now forgotten Mehrab Hossain did so against Zimbabwe some six years earlier.
Some would say that the writing was on the wall from the start when the usually rampaging Australians looked in some trouble against the seam bowlers of Bangladesh. 57 for 3 in the sixteenth over does not represent total domination- far from it actually. In the end however the Aussies managed to put on a decent score in the board thanks in part to their batsman and aided by some generous full tosses and length balls from Tapash and Nazmul. In the end 250 seemed a bit too much to be able to get.
But for once rational analysis was thrown out the door. And for once the wishes were horses and the beggars rode with all the grace of princes. For me however, the best part of the match was when star of the series and kiddie, Aftab Ahmad showed the experience of a thousand matches, and dismissed none other than Jason Gillespe over the mid wicket fence for a thunderous six. Athar Ali Khan, Bagladesh's sole represantative in the commentary box, for once lost his cool and summed it up by saying " take that Australia." All the frustrations of the past years exploded with that shot as did all the hard work that had been put it. For we were level with the World Champions.
And when Aftab and old guard Mohammad Rafique scampered home THE single, Bangladesh managed to earn the one thing that had eluded them ever since their inception into mainstream cricket- respect. It was a stone throw in the faces of all their doubters. Richie Benuad, Shane Warne and Geoffrey Boycott- eat your hearts out. We are here to stay.
While we rejoice at the greatest triumph of our cricket nation, the rest of the world will also thrive on this. For this one match has broken the aura of invincibility that had hung around Australia. As they say- it takes years to build reputation, a second to break it. For Australia it took all of 99.2 overs, but from here on they would do well to keep their arrogance in check.
What happens in the rest of the Nat West Series now matters not an iota. Bangladesh will in all probability not make the finals (that's my head speaking again- for my heart is screaming "Why EVER not?"). But the events that transpired on the 18th of June 2005 may forever more restructure the world of cricket.
Wisden's, Andrew Miller, summed it up in the best possible way. Today Bangladesh has achieved the aim of their lives- respect. Tomorrow is the beginning of the rest of their lives.
As for my friend and myself. At the time of writing, I am still contemplating my choice of restaurant. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to write in at