The heartbreak at Fatullah still hurts
On the fifth day, in the last ball of 107th over, Jason Gillespie pushed a short of a length delivery from Mashrafe Mortaza towards backward point for a single and clinched a thrilling victory. Apart from Ricky Ponting’s stubborn knock, Bangladesh dominated throughout the Test, but in the end, they failed to halt yet another heartbreak. Three years ago, at Multan, Inzamam-ul-Haq single-handedly defeated Bangladesh and at Fatullah, it was Ponting, who transformed into a one-man army to pull the match out of the fire.
I have not forgotten the sad faces of the Bangladesh cricket team who were standing like lifeless creatures in one corner. Despair and disbelief shattered their emotions and were unfazed by the heat of April. Their sadness was contagious and it spread rapidly throughout the nation for whom cricket is like oxygen. For the critics, that performance by a six-year-old Test nation was praiseworthy, but for a nation hungry for success, the defeat was similar to a cardiac arrest.
That Bangladesh team of the last decade had to remain satisfied with heartbreaks and winning hearts and there were times, beating teams like England and Australia seemed to be an uphill task for the Tigers. There were a couple of false dawns, but since Chandika Hathurusingha took over, the sun in the eastern sky of Bangladesh cricket has finally risen and shone brightly with great hope.
The Tigers of Chandika Hathurusingha don’t know about heartbreaks, but only know how to win a match no matter how tough the circumstances are!
Cometh the hour, cometh the man
The fourth day of the first Test at Mirpur was beautifully poised in favour of Australia. After making a great comeback on Day 3, the visitors scripted an inspiring partnership through David Warner and Steve Smith. Both of them negotiated the Bangladesh spinners and continued to fetch runs by injecting frustration among the Tigers and fans. Warner went on to notch up a fluent hundred and, it seemed, Australia would easily take a lead in the series.
But Bangladesh have a champion named Shakib Al Hasan. Very few teams are blessed to have a charismatic allrounder and Bangladesh are one of the teams in world cricket that are extremely blessed to have a competent allrounder like Shakib. He can bat, he can bowl and he wins matches for his team. The match entered in such a crucial passage, it demanded a champion from Bangladesh to wave his magic.
Warner attempted to play a Shakib drifter with a cross bat – a cardinal mistake against Shakib – and was beaten as the ball hit his pads. Shakib appealed and Aleem Daar made no hesitation to raise his finger. Then it was time to bag the wicket of Smith, who was well set to bring back the memories of Fatullah’s Ponting. Shakib delivered a quicker and flatter one outside at which Smith went for the horizontal shot and was caught by Mushfiqur Rahim.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Shakib delivered when Bangladesh were losing their grip on the match. Twos et batsmen were back in the hut and cabinet doors were open. Bangladesh were back in the match via Shakib’s brilliance and were in no mood to bog down without a fight.
Australia are a hard nut to crack
Australia are a team who have the reputation of being great fighters. Like Germany in soccer, they know how to script, dramatic comebacks despite digesting various setbacks and under critical circumstances. Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon stood firm at the wicket and looked in the no-nonsense mood like Usman Khawaja and Mathew Wade. Cummins led the charge with some gutsy blow over the midwicket and square leg boundary and kept on inching towards the target. The ninth-wicket stand added 29 valuable runs. Australia required 37 runs more to make Bangladesh’s heart bleed.
With the passing of each over, it seemed, that Australia would inflict another wound in the heart of Bangladesh like Fatullah.
Those tragic memories of 2003 and 2006 loomed large in my mind.
I thought Josh Hazlewood wouldn’t be able to bat as he was suffering from an injury. But still, he came out to bat. That’s Australia for you. They won’t surrender without a fight. He was looking sick but managed to hang out there depending on sheer willpower. He was simply providing Cummins the much-needed support from the other end. While Cummins looked well set, Bangladesh targeted Hazlewood.
In the 71st over, Taijul Islam came into the bowl. Hazlewood was on strike and he handled the first four deliveries with ease but in the fifth ball, he made the mistake of playing the ball too early. The ball hit the pad. Bangladesh made a loud appeal and umpire Nigel Llong raised his finger to finish the tension once and for all.
Bangladesh managed to pull off a historic win. For the first time in their history, they beat Australia in a Test match. The acute tension in the face of Sheikh Hasina, Nazmul Hassan, and everyone vanished and it was replaced by a smile full of life. For Chandika Hathurusingha, it was yet another victory to relish and yet another battle won against his harsh critics.
Thankfully, there was no repeat of the Fatullah Test.