Inspired by Rustom Deboo’s throwback to the 2000 Asia Cup, I wanted to look back on a more recent edition of the tournament.
Self-isolation has made me realise how much I miss international cricket, especially Test cricket.
The feeling of watching opening batsmen try and survive against a swinging red cherry is one that is sorely missed among cricket fans. So I’m doing my top five knocks from each Test-playing nation (barring Afghanistan and Ireland). The first part will be looking at my top five Test knocks by Bangladeshi batsmen.
5. Shakib Al Hasan 217 vs New Zealand – Wellington, New Zealand, 2017
This is probably one of my favourite innings I have watched in a losing cause. Bangladesh struggle away from home, although their batting has been showing improvement against quality attacks. Shakib Al Hasan hadn’t had a 50-plus score in over 20 months in Test cricket. For a player of his stature, it was disappointing to say the least. Despite half centuries from Tamim Iqbal and Mominul Haque, Bangladesh were in a spot of bother at 4-160. What would happen next was extraordinary.
Shakib just cut loose. He was batting aggressively but he wasn’t slogging or taking risks. He isn’t your traditional batsman who likes to play straight. Shakib loves hitting through point and he just did that for most of his innings. His counter-attack caught the Black Caps off guard as he reached his 50 off 86 balls and his fourth Test century off just 150 balls. The all-rounder formed a whopping 359-run fifth-wicket stand with keeper Mushfiqur Rahim as Shakib reached his double century in the process. After Mushfiqur’s dismissal, Shakib would fall six overs later, chopping on a ball not wide enough to cut. His marathon innings had lasted 418 minutes, but ended with a tired shot.
Despite the Basin Reserve pitch being an absolute road, batsmen still have to apply themselves and cash in. Bangladesh had been making small strides in Test cricket and Shakib’s innings was a reminder to the bigger boys that Bangladesh batsmen could perform away from home as well if they got proper chances to enhance their game as Test batsmen. Besides, if any batsmen gets runs against an attack of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner in New Zealand, they deserve respect. Despite his quality innings, Bangladesh would end up losing the Test after showing zero application with the bat in the second innings.
4. Tamim Iqbal 206 vs Pakistan – Khulna, Bangladesh, 2015
Out of all the pitches in Bangladesh, Khulna is generally the best wicket for batting. Despite scoring 332 in their first innings, Pakistan had practically batted Bangladesh out of the game, taking a whopping 296 run lead. With five sessions and four overs left of play, it would take a monumental task for Bangladesh to not lose this.
Tamim Iqbal could’ve been given out leg before first ball. He wasn’t given. Pakistan reviewed and umpire’s call prevailed. Tamim got himself into a groove post-lunch on Day 4 and smashed the Pakistan bowlers all around the park. He continued his aggressive approach and reached his seventh Test century off just 123 balls. With his fellow opener Imrul Kayes, they set the Pakistani bowlers into retreat mode as the pair put on 312 for the opening partnership. He would form partnerships with Mominul Haque and Mahmudullah on the way to smashing Junaid Khan over the stands to reach his maiden double ton. Tamim would eventually be dismissed for 206, stumped after trying to go inside out over cover against Mohammad Hafeez’s offies.
On slow pitches that are good for batting, Pakistan generally have the best bowling attacks to exploit it with quality spinners and quicks who are effective with reversing the old ball. A deficit of nearly 300 should’ve meant curtains for Bangladesh. But Tamim’s innings alongside a gem of an innings from Imrul Kayes showed that this Bangladesh side wouldn’t give up so easily even if it meant batting over 130 overs. Bangladesh would end up drawing the game, a massive momentum shift considering they were behind the eight ball for so much of the Test.
3. Tamim Iqbal vs England – London, England, 2010
It is the dream of every cricketer to make their name on the Lord’s honour board with the bat or ball. Tamim Iqbal achieved that just two months after the left-hander had turned 21. With Bangladesh falling short of England’s first innings total by 223 runs and time running out, Andrew Strauss enforced the follow-on.
After channelling his inner Rahul Dravid for his first 12 balls, Tamim gave up on blocking and leaving. The opener showed no fear as he reached his second 50 of the match. Rather than wasting a good start like he had done in the first innings, Tamim continued to bat aggressively. His aggressive approach worked wonders as he reached his third Test century off just 94 balls. However, he couldn’t rein his emotions quick enough as he holed out to deep square leg when there were three men for the bouncer.
For a young batsmen from Bangladesh to take on an attack of Steve Finn, Jimmy Anderson, Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann and be rewarded was really refreshing to see. Unfortunately, Bangladesh lost but they had given England an almighty fight with the inexperienced Tigers taking the Test pretty deep into Day 5. This innings from Tamim was one of many where English bowlers felt the full wrath of the left-hander. In six Test matches against the Poms, Tamim Iqbal averages just a shade below 62.
2. Shakib Al Hasan 116 vs Sri Lanka – Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2017
Bangladesh’s 100th Test match. Who else but their greatest player to entertain Bangladesh fans in this landmark game? Replying to Sri Lanka’s 338, Bangladesh lost their third wicket late on Day 2. Instead of Shakib walking out at five, Taijul Islam walked in as nightwatchman. He perished the first ball. Out comes Shakib facing the hat-trick ball, slog swept for four. Shakib was a man in anger late on Day 2, probably not liking that a nightwatchman came before him. Shakib was dropped in the second-last over of play and finished Day 2 on 18 off eight balls.
Shakib started controlling himself a bit more on Day 3 and formed two crucial partnerships of 92 and 131 with keeper/captain Mushfiqur Rahim and debutant Mossadek Hossain. Shakib reached his 100 off just 143 balls. While he was more cautious, his natural game of batting aggressively was evident. He got out on the stroke of tea for 116, walking off in dissent for playing a poor stroke so close to a break. Shakib took six wickets in the Test as Bangladesh ended up winning by four wickets.
Shakib played a crucial role in Bangladesh’s victory, playing a gem of a knock in a landmark game for the Tigers. He had turned up on the big stage, leading to beating Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka. To put this into context, South Africa and Australia failed to draw a Test on their last tours of Sri Lanka, let alone win. Shakib had a golden 2017 with the bat, averaging 47.5 with two tons and three half centuries in seven Tests.
1. Tamim Iqbal 104 vs England – Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2016
This is probably one of Tamim Iqbal’s hundreds that go under the radar compared to his other ones. On a rank turner in Dhaka, Bangladesh won the toss and elected to bat first. Iqbal took his time to get off the mark, before slashing one through point for two in his 20th ball. From there on, the English bowlers were at his mercy. Whether it was the more experienced players in Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali or the debutant Zafar Ansari, Iqbal went all guns blazing. Tamim attacked his way to a 141-ball century, his eighth in Test cricket and his third against England. He was trapped LBW by Moeen Ali for a well made 104 as his 170-run stand with number three Mominul Haque put Bangladesh well on top.
His dismissal brought a massive collapse as Bangladesh went from 1-171 to 220 all out. Fortunately, England had to bat last on a deteriorating wicket as Bangladesh won by 108 runs as they collapsed from 0-100 to 164 all out. On a wicket that was a spinner’s paradise, runs were like gold. Tamim’s century would ultimately be the difference as Bangladesh beat a Test team ranked in the top eight for the first time in their history. This was a massive breakthrough as they would beat Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka and Australia in Dhaka in the following ten months.
While these are my top five knocks, Tamim and Shakib aren’t the only players who have played tremendous knocks under pressure. Some special mentions include Mushfiqur Rahim (159 vs New Zealand), Imrul Kayes (150 vs Pakistan), Soumya Sarkar (149 vs New Zealand) and Mushfiqur Rahim (200 vs Sri Lanka). Rahim now has three double tons in Test cricket.
Bangladesh still has a long way to go to catch up to the big boys in Test cricket. But innings like these give Bangladesh fans hope that their record will improve away from home. Hopefully by the end of this decade, Bangladesh will get more chances to play Tests in England, South Africa and Australia rather than constantly being ignored by their boards so we can witness more quality Test knocks from these talented batsmen.