The Australian cricket team has taken the plane to Dhaka, Bangladesh after 11 long years for a Test series. After a number of times the series being cancelled, when Cricket Australia finally gave a green signal for the Bangladesh tour, that came no less than a festival in the Asian country. Considering the fact that Bangladesh have shown tremendous improvement across the formats, they deserved to play against the best of the sides. And why not? Their recent historic wins include victories over England and Sri Lanka and that marked the rise of a new Bangladesh side.
Since the current Australian side are nearly unaware of what to be expected from the Bangladesh tracks in terms of the red ball game, that certainly gives the hosts an edge of advantage and a golden chance to keep taking their graph further upwards. To make it worse for the visitors, the terrible rains spoilt the conditions of the ground to an extent that Smith and his boys denied to play the practice match there. Hence, they will take the field, for the first Test against Bangladesh on August 27, without playing any warm-up match, which would have only helped them get some idea about the conditions.
Prior to the first Test, let’s look back at the top-5 moments from Australia and Bangladesh’s previous encounters in Test cricket:
Steve Waugh on the top
Bangladesh were a three-year-old Test side and they were all set to lock horns against one of the giants of world cricket. There were no surprises when Australia bowled out Bangladesh for a mere 97 runs in the first innings. Mohammad Ashraful was their top-scorer with 23 runs and the wickets were shared between Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie and Stuart MacGill. Australia came out to bat on the very same day; opener Justin Langer came Australia a solid start following by the middle-order men Darren Lehmann and Steve Waugh taking up the charge.
The duo scored a century each and Skipper Waugh declared Australia’s innings at 407 for 7. Bangladesh lasted for another 51.1 overs before the visitors wrapped up the Test. It was Bangladesh’s ninth loss in 20 Tests in under three days and their 11th innings defeat in the last 13 Tests. However, it was Waugh who etched his name in the history books at the end of the Darwin Test. Waugh was named Player of the Match and with the win he also became the most successful captain in the history of Test cricket.
His 37 Test victories were one more than Clive Lloyd enjoyed during his time in charge of West Indies. The occasion just brightened more as he had now clinched a century against each of the opposing nine nations – something he then shared with South Africa’s Gary Kirsten.
Hannan Sarkar’s starts
The opening batsman had made his Test debut a year before the crucial away series against Australia. Going into the first Test, he had experience of only five Tests but Sarkar ended up as a stand out batsman for his side and finished as the leading run-scorer for them in the two matches. Capitalising on his technical strengths, he remained patient and concentrated at the crease to give Bangladesh good starts. However, he never was able to convert the start into a big knock and that weakness, unfortunately, stayed with him throughout his career.
In the first Test, he had a terrible game when he was dismissed for a duck in the first innings. Even in the second innings, he had managed to contribute some 35-odd runs. In the second Test, which was played at Cairns, he managed a 136-ball 76 and that happened to be the highest score by a Bangladesh player in the series. He scored another fifty when came out to bat for the second time but his side anyway went on to suffer a huge loss against Australia.
It was said that late David Hookes, the former Australia batsman, had suggested that Australia would wrap up the Test on the first day itself. However, Sarkar defied a bowling attack which included Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee and Stuart MacGill for over five hours over the entire match during his knock of 76.
Shahriar Nafees’s ‘100 moment’
Three years after drubbing Bangladesh at home, it was Australia’s turn to fly to the Asian country for another two-Test series. Having seen the way they white-washed Bangladesh in 2003, Australia were clear favourites to win the 2006 series also. However, little did they know that they would have to battle out all five days to win the first Test at Fatullah.
Bangladesh had a decent left-right combination set in the opening pair in Javed Omar and Shahriar Nafees. Batting first, the duo went on to put a 50-run stand for the first wicket and had managed to keep the Australian pace attack of Lee, Stuart Clark, and Gillespie. After 10 overs, Gillespie finally made a breakthrough and sent Omar back to the dugout. That dismissal turned out to a blessing in disguise for the hosts. Shahriar shared a massive 187-run partnership for the second wicket with his captain Habibul Bashar and that helped them pile up 300-plus runs on the first day – something no one had expected Bangladesh to do.
Shahriar scored an incredible century before he finally fell to MacGill. It was his maiden First-Class ton and his first in Tests. His stunning knock off 138 was inclusive of 19 fours. He contributed another vital 33 runs in the next innings but sadly Bangladesh lost the match by a whisker.
Mohammad Rafique’s 9 for 160
After Shahriar tore apart the Australian bowling line-up, it was Rafique’s turn to give the same treatment to the Aussie batsmen. It was Mashrafe Mortaza who drew first blood when he dismissed Matthew Hayden in the third over itself and that saw Australia at 6 for 1. A few overs later, Shahadat Hossain removed Ricky Ponting and left Australia at a miserable position of 43 for 2. From there on Rafique took the charge on his hands and ended the innings with a superb five-for.
In the final innings, Australia chased 306 and Rafique seemed in the same ruthless rhythm. Although Ponting’s resistance snatched away a piece of glory from a young Bangladesh of defeating a higher-ranked side, Rafique earned a notable record. He ended the match with career-best match figures of 9 for 160 and later he became the first Bangladesh bowler to score 1000 Test runs and pick 100 Test wickets.
Ricky Ponting breaks Bangladesh’s heart
The platform was set for Bangladesh; the fans across the country had begun celebrations of a victory against Australia in a Test. Rafique and Shariar were their heroes. But what followed next remained one of the saddest days in Bangladesh’s cricket history. In the 100th over, Mortaza dismissed Lee and that left Bangladesh three wickets away from a historic win over Australia in a Test. However, Ponting, with the help of Lee first and then Gillespie, held the lineup like a fevicol and ensured they crossed the line with smiles on their face. Ponting shared a crucial 46-run stand with Lee before Gillespie and Ponting added another 30 runs to take Australia on the other side with a memorable three-wicket victory. Although it was just another victory for Australia against these opponents, it was special for the way Bangladesh put up a fight and fought till the last minute.