The seventh edition of ICC Champions Trophy took place in England. Among the eight teams participated in that mega event, Bangladesh failed to qualify and had to enjoy the action as a spectator in front of television. At that time, the Tigers were an improved side and since the Asia Cup of 2012, they were regarded as a very competitive side in the 50-over format. Teams like India, Sri Lanka, West Indies and New Zealand discovered the might of Bangla boys, but still, those memorable wins were not enough to improve Bangladesh’s ODI ranking in ICC. In fact, the absence of Bangladesh in England took the sheen off the tournament in 2013.

The rise to the top

Time moved on fast and demanded more improved displays from the Tigers. In one of the toughest phases of Bangladesh cricket in 2014, Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) appointed Chandika Hathurusingha as the head coach, Heath Streak as the bowling coach and Mashrafe Mortaza s the captain of limited-overs format of Bangladesh. Chandika’s ability to recognise the right talents and man management skills, Streak’s ability to polish the pace bowlers and Mashrafe’s leadership qualities, changed the face of Bangladesh cricket.

The critics and cricket followers discovered a bunch of fearless boys, who are not the bashing boys of world cricket anymore but plays the attacking brand of cricket, which instills fear in the minds of opposition teams.

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Bangladesh surprised the world by qualifying for the quarterfinals of ICC World Cup 2015 and then after returning home, they outclassed Pakistan 3-0 in the ODI series, but the job was still half finished. At one point, the equation was such, Bangladesh needed to win two of their remaining six matches – against India and South Africa before September 30, 2015, to finish ahead of West Indies.

Before the start of ODI series against India, Mashrafe said,  “We are improving so we must handle this sort of pressure. It is going to be bigger in the future. We are hoping to see Bangladesh cricket take the next step which will be a lifetime achievement for us”.  Indeed, Bangladesh showed their class as a team against the number 2 ranked side back then by beating them 2-1 in ODI series and when the red-hot South Africans were outclassed 3-0, Mashrafe’s men’s qualification in the eight edition of ICC Champions Trophy was nothing but a lifetime achievement.

Well played Bangladesh

Finally, on June 1, 2017, Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar went out to open the innings in the first match of this year’s ICC Champions Trophy against the hosts, England.

On a hot day in London, Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim’s scintillating batting exhibition blunted the famed English attack, but their efforts were not enough as Joe Root and Eoin Morgan started off England’s campaign in flying colours. Tamim Iqbal was among the runs yet again, but except him, the rest of the batsmen failed to contribute and Australia were well set to register two valuable points on a gloomy day at Oval.

Thankfully, the Rain Gods were happy on Bangladesh and poured heavily to dash Australia’s dreams. The Tigers earned one point and found themselves in a must-win situation against New Zealand who were also denied by the rain after setting jitters in the Aussie batting lineup.

Both Bangladesh and New Zealand were stuck with one point and a win at Cardiff would give both of them the hope of a semi-final entry if Australia lose the match against England.

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At Cardiff, the venue where once the Tigers toppled the mighty Australians, Bangladesh bowled and fielded their heart out to restrict a strong Kiwi batting line-up within 265 runs in 50 overs, but Trent Boult and Tim Southee left Bangladesh reeling at 33 for 4. It was a muggy situation and demanded enough self-belief and composure to get out of the rut.

Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah Riyad scripted hundreds and stitched one of the most inspiring partnerships in the history Bangladesh cricket to knock New Zealand out of the tournament and the next day, when Ben Stokes and Eoin Morgan’s ruthless counterattack mauled Australia, for the first time, Bangladesh qualified for the semi-finals of a mega event.

A slice of luck and never say die attitude in the toughest moment aided the Tigers to advance this far.

India, the hot favourites of the tournament, proved too good for the Bangla boys in the semi-final. Bangladesh lacked the intent and hunger to deliver the best when the occasion is big. As soon as Kedar Jadhav struck, they lost their way and 264 runs were never going to be enough to beat the Men in Blue.

Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli’s attacking batting display ended Bangladesh’s dream run in this tournament.

Bangladesh fans should be satisfied

The Bangladesh fans were expecting big from the boys. They were charged up for another Cardiff-epic and the level of expectations were taken to the stratosphere due to the hype created by Bangladesh media. But as soon as India made the chase a total mockery, the fans made a crash landing on earth. But they must not be dissatisfied with the Tigers at all and there is no shame in losing to the best of the tournament.

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As a matter of fact, Bangladesh played superbly in this tournament. None expected them to exhibit such a fighting spirit and feature in the semi-final of an ICC event where teams like South Africa and Australia said goodbye to England from the group stage.

Bangladesh won’t fly home with a wooden spoon, but they will take with plenty of positives such as, Rubel Hossain and Mustafizur Rahman’s smart bowling in the middle and death overs, Mosaddek Hossain’s brave bowling in the last ten overs, Tamim Iqbal’s sublime form against the best bowlers of the world, Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah’s brave heart display and last but not the least, Mashrafe’s tactical brilliance which at times went missing even Bangladesh used to play well. Above all, Bangladesh have earned the respect of world cricket and they are not home track bullies anymore.

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