Later this month, the Bangladesh cricket team will begin their third tour of the West Indies. The Tigers had previously visited the Caribbean in 2004 and 2009. The 2009 visit was historic for them, as they recorded their first and till date, only overseas series victory.
It is a fact that Bangladesh were awarded Test match status much earlier than they deserved. Though they performed quite impressively in their first ever Test against India in 2000-01, it has been a rough ride ever since. Their first Test match win came in the 35th attempt, when they beat Zimbabwe by 226 runs at Chittagong in 2004-05.
Currently, their record reads a woeful 4 wins, 68 defeats and 11 draws in 83 Tests. Two of these four wins came during the two-Test series on the above-mentioned tour of the West Indies in 2009. Just like the Zimbabwean side of 2004-05, the West Indies side of 2009 was an understrength outfit.
As many as 13 regular first-choice players pulled out of the series against Bangladesh due to a long-standing contract dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board. The situation became so desperate for the hosts that they were eventually captained by Floyd Reifer, who had last played a Test back in 1998-99. This fracas was one of the most shameful episodes in West Indian cricket history.
But for Bangladesh, this was a golden opportunity to secure a rare win or two. The first Test was played at the Arnos Vale ground in Kingstown, St Vincent from July 9-13, 2009. There were an eye-popping nine debutants in the game – seven of them for the West Indies. That the combined number of Test caps in the West Indian eleven were just 22 shows how weakened the team was.
Bangladesh, captained by Mashrafe Mortaza, elected to bat on winning the toss. Rain allowed only 18.5 overs on the first day, with the visitors at a steady 42/0. However on Day 2, the Bangladeshi batsmen failed to put up any noteworthy partnership and slumped to 100/5.
Four batsmen crossed 30, but none of them made more than 39, which was the highest score of the innings (by Mortaza, who came in at 149/7). The last three wickets added a vital 89 as Bangladesh ended their innings at 238. Kemar Roach, one of the debutants, took 3/46.
The West Indian reply was built around Barbadian opener Omar Phillips, who struck a fluent 94 on debut. Aided by important middle-order knocks from David Bernard (53) and Darren Sammy (48), the hosts managed to score 307, taking a decent lead of 69 runs. The two Bangladeshi debutants – fast bowler Rubel Hossain and left-arm spinner Mahmudullah Riyad took three wickets apiece.
Throughout the fourth day, the Bangladeshi batsmen showed a maturity seldom associated with them. Tamim Iqbal scored 128 and shared a game-changing 146-run second wicket stand with Junaid Siddique (78). The visitors ended Day 4 at 321/5, leading by 252 runs.
The Bangladeshi lower order subsided quickly early on the final day, and their final score was 345. Sammy (5/70) was the pick of the bowlers. The West Indies were thus set a challenging target of 277. The inexperienced home batsmen caved in under pressure and succumbed to the visiting spin duo of Mahmudullah (5/51, match-haul of 8/110 on debut)) and Shakib Al Hasan (3/39).
Half the side were back in the hut with just 82 on the board, even as Bernard (52*) put up a valiant effort. Shakib trapped Tino Best leg-before off the first ball of the 71st over of the innings to bring up Bangladesh’s first ever overseas Test match win and only the second overall. The hapless home team was dismissed for 181, leaving the Tigers victorious by 95 runs.
The action moved to the National Cricket Stadium in St Georges, Grenada for the second and final Test, to be played from July 17-21, 2009. As if the sheer inexperience of the West Indies was not enough, their woes were compounded when they encountered yet another pitch suited to Bangladesh’s strength of spin bowling.
Mortaza was ruled out due to injury and Shakib led the side in this match. He won the toss and decided to field first. The Windies top three gave an assured start – Dale Richards cracking an attacking 69 – but the visitors’ three-pronged spin attack wrecked the middle order.
From 104/1, the hosts slumped to 160/7. Number three Travis Dowlin held one end up with a gutsy 95, and he was the last man out at 237. Each of the three spinners – Shakib, Mahmudullah and Enamul Haque jnr – bagged three wickets. The Bangladeshi reply was as unconvincing, as the home pace bowlers, led by Roach, reduced them to 77/4 on the second day.
Shakib al Hasan, who was the captain in the second Test, poses with the trophy after guiding Bangladesh to a historic series win with an all-round display (source – banglacricket.com)
Raqibul Hasan resisted with a score of 44 while wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim top-scored with 48 from number eight to bring a semblance of recovery. Bangladesh ended their first innings at 232, just five runs behind. Roach bowled his heart out, returning figures of 6/48. The Test now hinged upon how the West Indian batsmen tackled the Bangladeshi spinners in the second innings.
Dowlin scored 49 from number three, but things looked bleak for the hosts at 110/5. Bernard, who top-scored with 69, added 56 for the sixth wicket with Sammy, before the last five wickets tumbled for only 43 to ensure that the West Indies were all out for 209 early on the fourth day. The spinners reaped a rich haul again, with Shakib (5/70) and Haque (3/48) at the forefront.
The target for Bangladesh was 215 runs with ample time available. However, the pace duo of Roach and Sammy gave the hosts the upper hand, as they left Bangladesh tottering at 67/4. With a session to go on Day 4, the score was 103/4 and the match interestingly poised. Thereafter, the Hasans – Shakib and Raqibul – took charge.
The two realised 96 runs for the fifth wicket at four runs an over to destroy the hosts’ chances of a series-levelling win. While Raqibul was dismissed for 65, skipper Shakib remained unbeaten on a brilliant, counter-attacking 96 off just 97 balls, and it was he who struck the winning boundary off Roach to spark jubliant scenes among his team-mates.
Bangladesh reached 217/6, winning by four wickets with a full day to spare. Sammy’s 5/55 went in vain. Shakib led from the front and was named Man of the Match in the second Test as well as the Man of the Series. In almost nine years, the Tigers had just one victory to show, but now they had two more – that too away from home – in the space of twelve days.
The West Indians had themselves to blame, and the loss was an egg on the face of the inept WICB administration. On the other hand, Bangladesh had a rare opportunity and they grabbed it with both hands. There were very few people in the stands to witness this moment, but nevertheless, the whole of Bangladesh must have celebrated with joy.
Bangladesh’s next – and latest – Test match win was also achieved away from home, when they beat Zimbabwe by 143 runs at Harare to draw the series in 2013.
The West Indies may have fielded a second-string side, but an overseas series clean sweep does not come everyday. This is easily Bangladesh’s most memorable Test achievement till date.