June 2005 – One Day in Cardiff

There are shots that define generations. Javed Miandad’s final-ball six at Sharjah that set a tone for Pakistani domination of India for the best part of a decade. Mike Gatting’s reverse sweep in the 1987 World Cup final to set in motion the chain of Australian supremacy over their oldest rivals that continues unbrokem to the present day. Aftab Ahmed’s Cardiff maximum to seal Bangladesh’s fairytale triumph over Australia.

June 2005 saw the shattering of an epoch, the devastation of the mould of sub-mediocrity that Bangladeshi cricket sunlessly inhabited. Defeat followed defeat, and the only thing that seemed more common than batting collapses was their Test status being questioned – but during the course of one glorious, sun-drenched afternoon in Wales, Habibul Bashar’s Tigers etched themselves permanently onto the world cricketing map.

Yes, Paul Collingwood produced a performance that statistically eclipsed everything ever achieved in ODIs with a century and six wickets in the same match and Kevin Pietersen hammered another dramatic, match-turning innings at Bristol. So what if no one could get Mike Hussey out and if Andrew Symonds could do no wrong – on the field at least? Cricket’s about moments, about momentum, about spirit – and nothing captured that better than that one evening at Sophia Gardens.

Nevertheless, every firework needs its charge lit. Whilst the coup de grace was administered by Aftab Ahmed, the groundwork of Bangladesh’s magnificent 250-run chase was laid by 20-year-old Mohammad Ashraful. Following an abject Test series, where the batsman averaged below six, Ashraful conjured a run-a-ball century to ease his team-mates’ victory dance.

A battery of sublime cover drives off Australia’s front-line seamers marked Ash’s intent – back foot, front foot, half volley or simply on the up to the delight of the breathtaken crowds – leaving the cream of the World Champions shellshocked. Not only was the innings flamboyant, but crucially perfectly timed to boot. With Javed Omar he set his foundation before exploding in partnership with skipper Bashar.

Whilst he was caught on the boundary the ball after bringing up his milestone, the Tigers’ middle order ensured his efforts would enter the history books and internet archives as a headline rather than merely a footnote, he followed the century with 92 against England to prove it was no mere fluke. Greeting Steve Harmison with impudence and two hooked sixes, eleven fours and three maximums came in his 57-ball rampage only to end as Paul Collingwood surpassed Viv Richards for a day.

The impact had been made, however, and was followed by another attention-catching fifty at Old Trafford – including two sixes off Lee – and another clearing the ropes off the world’s fastest bowler at Canterbury. Only Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss scored more in the series, and they had the benefit of three matches against the Bangladeshi bowling attack – even then Trescothick only edged Ash by two runs.

Bangladesh have arrived – and whilst it has taken a supreme team effort to bring them this far, one man stands out, shining above all. Ask an English or Australian cricket fan in the street to name a Bangladeshi player, and the odds are that the boy from Dhaka will top any survey.

CricketWeb Player of the Month
June 2005

Mohammad Ashraful

Leave a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they have been approved

More articles by Neil Pickup