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The audacity of Bangladesh

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Bangladesh_cricketIt was the 33rd match in the 2015 World Cup. Having set England a target of 276, Bangladesh started off well but lost its way in the middle overs with Buttler and Woakes pulling things back together for the Poms. They were well in the driver's seat but what followed was not expected.

England lost three wickets in space of 14 deliveries. A rampant Rubel Hossain shattered the stumps to dismiss James Anderson and knock England out of the tournament, giving Bangladesh their first ever taste of the knockout stage in a World Cup. Even though they were eliminated by India in the quarter final, their impressive run didn't stop.

 

They went on a winning spree, defeating the likes of Pakistan, India and South Africa at home. We are talking about quality teams which have made it big in the International arena. The Tigers' morale has gone up after facing the big boys in the Test arena. Though they don't have a settled eleven, the new look Bangladesh side has the confidence to pull off a surprise.

Even though many critics wanted Bangladesh's Test status scrapped off, the Tigers didn't give up. Bangladesh hosted Pakistan in mid-2015. The first Test was a stalemate with batsmen from both sides amassing runs. But Bangladesh suffered a setback when they lost by a mammoth 328 runs in the second Test. That didn't deter them and they hosted South Africa next. Unfortunately, both the matches were rain-marred, as was their one-off Test against India.

Against India, the match was dominated by the visitors but the story wasn't same against South Africa. Mustafizur Rahman, who has been a revelation for the Tigers, was vital and picked up 4 wickets in his debut match as South Africa were bowled out for under 250. Bangladesh took a lead of 78 runs. A lead against the top ranked Test side - the audacity of hope.

Bangladesh didn't play a Test between August 2015 and October 2016. In the meantime, they had qualified for the Asia Cup final where they lost out to eventual winners, India. Their T20 World Cup campaign didn't go as expected and they bottled a golden chance to defeat hosts India in Bengaluru when they lost by a run. Just like their fans, the Bangladesh players started to celebrate too soon and that led to their downfall whilst going for glory shots.

They also went on to lose against England at home bringing an end to their limited overs glory run. The Test series against England proved the mettle of the Bangladeshi side. They lost the first Test by a mere 22 runs. Sabbir Rahman was the only batsman from the home side who played out of his skin till the end and he was devastated after the agonising defeat.

The second Test marked the arrival of the young Mehedi Hasan, who had taken a six wicket haul on debut in the first Test. The 19-year old spinner came into the spotlight when he dismantled England's middle-order single-handedly in the first innings. He was heavily involved yet again in the fourth innings of the match when his six-wicket haul helped Bangladesh defeat England by 108 runs. His figures read 12-159 and he became just the sixth bowler to take three five-wicket hauls in the first two Tests, joining an elite list.

The Tigers then went on to a tour of New Zealand. Their batting collapsed like a deck of cards and their middle order came a cropper. But Shakib-al-Hasan's perseverance has to be applauded. He played magnificently in the ODIs and smacked a double century in the first Test. Mushfiqur Rahim too played brilliantly, scoring a century in the same Test.

They paid a visit to India next but lost the match heavily, succumbing to Ashwin and Jadeja's brilliance but they did not go down without a fight. Skipper Mushfiqur Rahim scored a century despite sustaining injuries to his finger.

Talking about the Test skipper, Rahim has shown the world his ability to score big in the longer formats. His batting has class written all over it but he isn't able to find the right support. In the last few matches, Rahim has scored consistently and has become a talismanic figure for the Tigers. The recently concluded first Test against Sri Lanka at Galle ended with Bangladesh on the losing side and was the first time in a while since they were outclassed in all the departments.

Barring that, the performance of Bangladesh has improved vastly compared to their performance half a decade ago. They are now challenging the big boys of International Cricket and despite suffering some huge defeats, they are constantly improving. Budding talents like Mustafizur Rahman, Taijul Islam and Mehedi Hasan have shown promise while the experienced trio of Shakib-al-Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim have to lead the youngsters to take Bangladesh Cricket forward.

Fast forward a few years from now on, Bangladesh could well be one of the powerhouses in International Cricket if the players have the right mindset.

 

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