Sunday, 30th October, 2016 will be remembered as the day that cricket in Bangladesh finally came of age. The Tigers’ 108-run victory over England in Dhaka was greeted with emotional scenes on the outfield, celebration on the streets and a plea from captain Mushfiqur Rahim for his side to be given the opportunity to play more Test matches against the big beasts of the world game.
Although their limited overs side had claimed some prestigious scalps before - notably dumping England out of the 2015 World Cup - Bangladesh had won only seven of their ninety-four previous Test matches, beating lowly Zimbabwe five times and a depleted West Indies side twice on a 2009 tour to the Caribbean.
This victory, though, represents the watershed: Bangladesh’s first against a major power in a Test. Whilst much of the analysis has predictably been directed on the vanquished rather than the victorious – with a focus on the shortcomings of an England side lacking experience in subcontinental conditions and a spin attack able to exploit them – Bangladesh’s thoroughly deserved win has confirmed their status as a side more than capable of holding their own in the Test arena. Defeat represents no disgrace for an England team outplayed by the better side in these conditions. Indeed, had Australia not pulled out of their planned tour in 2015, that precious first victory would probably have arrived all the sooner.
England captain Alastair Cook clearly recognised the significance of the occasion.
“It’s not easy for me to say, but it’s a good win for Bangladesh cricket. Maybe some things are bigger than one game,” he said.
“I’m really glad that we came to Bangladesh and that it was the cricket that’s done the talking, not the security. You saw what cricket means to the Bangladeshi people.”
Not only cricket, but Test cricket. For all the prophesies of doom and demands for reinvention which surround the longest form of the game, the significance of the victory for Bangladeshi players and fans has reaffirmed the place of Test cricket at the pinnacle of the sport and, in a tightly contested, nip-and-tuck series such as this, provided its most potent advertisement.
For Bangladesh, the benchmark by which they will measure themselves from now onwards will be how they continue to perform in the Test arena. The signs are promising. In Mehedi Hasan they have an undoubted star of the future. The nineteen-year-old’s series haul of 19 wickets at 15.63 in his debut Tests included 12-159 in Dhaka, the best bowling returns in Bangladeshi Test history. Add the explosive potential of Mustafizur Rahman, together with the experience and quality of established players such as Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan, and Bangladesh have at their disposal a side of genuine talent.
“We are getting there but hopefully if we play more Tests I think there will be more good results coming,” said Rahim. “Hopefully the ICC and the boards will send us a couple of series against the big boys.”
The cricket world will watch what happens next with interest. It may have taken ninety-five Tests to notch that first major victory, but Bangladesh have proved that if given the opportunity to do so the established order can be challenged and new cricketing forces fashioned.
With Afghanistan and Ireland clamouring for admission to the Test arena, together with Scotland, Holland, Nepal and other Associate nations desperate for the chance to play more cricket on the international stage, the case for growing the game has never been more pressing or relevant. Bangladesh’s victory proves that with the right support, truly great things can be achieved. Just think of what might be possible if cricket’s governing boards choose to expand the base of the international game still further.
Fast. Lite. Innovative. Shareable. Download our HW Cricket app!