Australia and Bangladesh will be facing each other in whites after more than 11 years when they begin their two-Test series in Dhaka on August 27. The history between them in the longest format is brief – only four matches across two series have been played since 2003. Nevertheless, these Tests have had their share of conspicuous moments, not to mention a few stirring performances.
Darwin and Cairns join the Test club
As part of Cricket Australia’s plan to host off-season matches at unexplored locations, two new venues were welcomed into the Test fold for Australia’s inaugural series against Bangladesh in 2003. The Marrara Oval in Darwin and the Bundaberg Rum Stadium in Cairns became the 89th and 90th Test venues respectively.
To nobody’s surprise, Australia notched a comfortable 2-0 victory courtesy of resounding innings wins in both games. The gap in both, experience and skill, was evident on the first day of the first Test itself as Bangladesh, led by Khaled Mahmud, were shot out for 97. The win at Darwin was Steve Waugh’s 37th as captain, overhauling Clive Lloyd’s record.
Boof’s beefy blade, Love’s final fling
Darren ‘Boof’ Lehmann had scored his maiden Test ton, at the age of 33, against the West Indies at Port-of-Spain in April 2003. Three months later, he took a liking to the raw Bangladeshi attack and amassed two more centuries, ending as the series’ highest run-getter. At Darwin, he walked in at 43/2 and scored 110, while at Cairns, he top-scored with a career-best 177 from just 207 balls.
Opener Shahriar Nafees scored 138 on the first day at Fatullah in 2005-06, as Bangladesh gave a massive scare to Australia (source – AFP/farjana godhuly)
Also playing in the series for Australia was three-Test-old Martin Love, who, like Lehmann, was an ace batsman in the first-class arena. His outing at Darwin was forgettable as he was castled by Mashrafe Mortaza for a golden duck. However, he made amends with an unbeaten 100 at Cairns, sharing in a fifth-wicket stand of 174 with Lehmann. This would be Love’s final Test innings.
Shahriar Nafees leaves the world champions stunned
A weary Australian side began their first Test in Bangladesh, in 2005-06, just five days after their series-sweeping win in the third Test in South Africa. It was also the first Test to be played at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah. The opening day belonged to 20-year-old southpaw Shahriar Nafees, who launched into the unsuspecting bowlers with aplomb.
At lunch, Bangladesh’s score was a scarcely believable 144/1. Nafees, uninhibited and unleashed, added 187 for the second wicket with his captain Habibul Bashar and galloped to a maiden first-class hundred in 131 balls. He was eventually dismissed for 138, lit with 19 fours, a knock that powered Bangladesh to 355/5 at stumps. The great Shane Warne was taken for 112 off 20 wicketless overs.
Gilchrist and Ponting save Australia the blushes
Replying to Bangladesh’s 427 in the first Test at Fatullah in 2005-06, Australia were gasping for breath at 93/6. Less than a year ago, the Tigers had beaten Australia in an ODI, and now, they had reason to feel upbeat about a potentially bigger upset. Adam Gilchrist, batting at six, provided relief to his confounded teammates with a timely 144 that restricted Bangladesh’s lead to 158.
A poor show from the Bangladeshi batsmen in the second innings brought Australia back into the game, but a target of 307 was a challenge on a deteriorating wicket. Captain Ricky Ponting calmly responded to the pressure, keeping left-arm spinner Mohammad Rafique (4/98, 9/160 in the match) at bay and constructing a restrained, unbeaten 118 to steer Australia to a tense three-wicket win.
Jason Gillespie smiles after his record-breaking double century at Chittagong in 2005-06 (source – gettyimages/cricket.com.au)
Magical MacGill – Bangladesh’s bogeyman
Even though he plied his trade under the shadow of Shane Warne, leg-spinner Stuart MacGill almost always delivered when given the opportunity. Bangladesh’s batsmen would know this well, for MacGill has scalped 33 wickets in four matches against them, 14 more than anyone else in Australia v Bangladesh fixtures. Moreover, he boasts of an average of 15.75 and four five-wicket hauls.
His first assignment against Bangladesh, at Darwin in 2003, saw him pick 7/86, including 5/65 in the second innings. He bettered these in the second Test at Cairns, taking 10/133 (5/77 and 5/56) to be named player of the match and series. In 2005-06, he recorded a career-best return of 8/108 in the first innings at Fatullah, and gathered eight more from the next three innings in the series.
Dizzy’s sensational vigil enters the record books
Having broken out of jail in the Fatullah Test, Australia restored normality at Chittagong, winning by an innings and 80 runs to seal the series. The match was notable for one of the most remarkable innings of all time – the only Test double century by a nightwatchman. This honour went to the sprightly paceman Jason Gillespie, in what was to be his last international appearance.
‘Dizzy’ came in at number three late on the first day, after his 3/11 had kept Bangladesh to 197. Three days later, on his 31st birthday, he was still in the middle, having doggedly batted nine hours and 34 minutes for 201*, when Australia declared at the fall of Michael Hussey, with whom he put on 320 for the fourth wicket. Before this, Gillespie had never passed 58 in first-class cricket.