It’s a mere coincidence that Bangladesh got their best Test victory in their 100th Test against Sri Lanka at Colombo. This was Bangladesh’s best win in a sense that it came against a full-strength side, away from home, fighting a full five days and chasing a target in excess of 150 runs.
It could have come in any other Test, in their 99th Test, in 97th Test as the win was always on card. All Bangladesh needed was a collective understanding of their game and few X factors to come together. They got it in Colombo and turned the corner in spectacular style!
But it was not a total surprise win. Any cricket historian would split Bangladesh’s cricket in three eras – the pre-1997 ICC Trophy era, the post-1997 ICC Trophy and the post-2015 World Cup era. In that sense this Test was only their 12th Test in new era. And they got their second win and some creditable draws in their new era of cricket.
Bangladesh have had many successes in limited-over cricket since they reached the World Cup quarter-finals in Australia-New Zealand. But people preferred to ignore their Test success over period. Yes, they were not as consistent in Tests as they were in ODIs. But they are not consistent losers either.
Just look at their scorecard in the first Test they played after the World Cup. They overcame a 296-run first innings deficit to draw a Test match against Pakistan. One of their openers scored a double century and other got 150-plus innings. We often speak about VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid’s heroics against Australia at Eden. But what Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes did in Khulna was as important a feat.
India could win the game against Eden because they also had a Harbhajan Singh alongside Laksman and Dravid. Bangladesh failed as they lacked a match-winning bowler. But for a perennial under-achiever, a draw against the then one of the best Test sides was equal to a win.
During their rise, Bangladesh had to endure an unexpected 15-month break in Test. But once they returned to Test duty against England, they showed that they remained the same team. A 22-run defeat in Chittagong carried many positives which Bangladesh translated into a big performance in the very next game. They were also competitive in New Zealand and India and a win in Sri Lanka was just round the corner.
Bangladesh were right to feel disappointed for their performance in the first Test in Galle. They did many things right but faltered on the final day to deny themselves at least a draw.
The Colombo Test also began promisingly before Bangladesh threatened to have spoiled their good works with seemingly senseless batting in the final half-an-hour of the second day. They needed to think out of the box to win the game. The team management did their part before the game by dropping a senior player who was good in other formats but poor in Tests. Another young player was dropped despite a good past record just because his technique appeared faulty in lbw dismissals of both innings in the first Test.
They were bold decisions and could have easily backfired, at worst Bangladesh would have lost because of their axing. They were losing it anyway, so an out-of-the-box thinking was always a help. What helped Bangladesh more, however, was the personal realisation of a senior cricketer, who has the ability to achieve so many successes only to remain satisfied with so little things.
Shakib Al Hasan needed someone to tell him precisely that if he continued to ignore the game situation he would better be released to do something else other than playing for a team that was representing millions. According to some officials Shakib was given the message by BCB high-up after the second day’s play in Colombo and next day he came into the field as a transformed to score a century and pick up four wickets with the ball later.
When your best player responds to a situation, you simply cannot lose and Bangladesh also did not lose either. They also needed a few other players to complement him and Mustafizur Rahman, Tamim Iqbal provided exactly that. After such an effort from three players carrying an X factors, a Bangladesh defeat in this match would have been an upset. The upset could be avoided and Bangladesh got the result they thoroughly deserved.