12 years ago, on this day, a Mohammad Ashraful-led Bangladesh side came out on top against one of the best One Day units of all-time; Australia. The stage was set for an Australian-Bangladesh tie in the 2005 NatWest Tri-Series in England with the hosts being the third side.
The twin wickets at the top
Expected to be mere pushovers, Bangladesh were handed a lifeline when Ricky Ponting opted to bat first despite the overcast conditions. Led by current Bangladesh skipper, Mashrafe Mortaza, Bangladesh had quite a few handy seamers who could make the ball talk, something which the Aussies took lightly.
Mortaza drew first blood off the second ball of the game when he had Adam Gilchrist plumb in front of the stumps. Tapash Baisya took cue from Mortaza and troubled Ponting and Matthew Hayden with exceptional bowling lines. The scoreboard barely ticked in the first five overs as the Australian duo settled themselves at the crease. Baisya broke through with the wicket of Ricky Ponting, the skipper, leg before wicket for 1 after facing 16 deliveries.
At 9/2, Australia were in a spot of bother but they were this World beating side of 2000s and had enough firepower down the order to make up for the early collapse, despite Andrew Symonds missing out on the game after a drinking episode.
The recovery led by Damien Martyn
First change seamer, Nazmul Hossain, broke through the Hayden - Martyn recovery stand by cleaning up the former's stumps. Michael Clarke joined Martyn at the crease and despite the scoring rate dipping, the duo stayed on at the crease to consolidate.
The Bangladesh spinners, Aftab Ahmed and Mohammad Rafique, tied down the Aussie batsmen with their stump to stump lines. Martyn and Clarke were firm but could not get the scoring rate soaring.
Martyn looked in his zone though and was expected to bat through the innings. However, Tapash Baisya broke the back of the Aussie innings by getting rid of both settled batsmen in the space of two overs. The 108-run stand had settled down the nerves but after the wickets of the duo, the Aussies were left to play out the last seven overs with new batsmen at the crease.
A super finish and Bangladesh's shaky start
Michael Hussey and Simon Katich, the new batsmen at the crease, had seven overs to take Australia to a par total at Cardiff. The left-handed duo played with intent and sent the Bangladesh bowlers to all corners of the ground. 66 runs came off the last 6 overs as Australia finished at 249. Hussey was unbeaten on 31 off 21 balls while Simon Katich, contrary to his Test image, made 36 off 23 balls.
Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie made the ball talk early on as the Bangladesh openers failed to get the team off to a good start. Gillespie got rid of Nafees Iqbal, who edged behind to the keeper and Michael Kasprowicz blitzed through Javed Omar after the wily chinaman, Brad Hogg, had gotten rid of Tushar Imran.
The Ashraful - Bashar stand
After 20 overs, Bangladesh were 72/3 and it only seemed a matter of time before the Aussie bowlers were all over them. But skipper, Habibul Bashar, and Mohammad Ashraful looked composed at the wicket and rotated the strike with ease. The Australian spinners, unlike their Bangladeshi counterparts, were milked for easy ones and twos as the duo kept the required rate under check.
"When we started off, neither of us were even bothered about the total. We tried our best to stay there and play out 50 overs. That's all we told ourselves - don't get out. When I am well set I play the faster bowlers well while Bashar plays the spinners well. So we tried to rotate the strike that way", Ashraful had revealed about his partnership with Bashar in an interview with ESPNCricinfo.
Ashraful had a stroke of luck when Jason Gillespie dropped him on 54. As Bangladesh realised they were closing in on an improbable victory, the nerves set in. The skipper was run-out in the 44th over and Ashraful was left with Aftab Ahmed to finish the game.
Ashraful's maiden hundred
The flamboyant Bangladeshi batsman was much talked about before the series for his eye-catching stroke play and timing. However, his records spoke an all together different story. He was into his 50th ODI with just four half-centuries to his name and an average hovering in the 20s. There was immense promise but those hadn't translated into runs in his short career till that point.
All that changed with him displaying impeccable composure in this game against the Aussies. He caught attention for the manner in which he picked out Michael Clarke's innocuous left-arm spin. The young batsman soon reached his hundred, only the second by a Bangladeshi player at the time.
The late flourish and a steal
Gillespie redeemed himself by dismissing the centurion, Mohammad Ashraful, which left Bangladesh shattered, watching all the hard work dismantle before their eyes. However, Aftab and Rafique kept the Tigers in the game and took them to within touching distance by the final over.
Needing seven from the final over, Aftab Ahmed hoisted Jason Gillespie over the mid-wicket boundary before taking a single off the next ball to seal the game for his side. Cardiff had witnessed a heist of the highest order and Bangladesh had stamped their name into the cricketing map with a scintillating performance.
"It has given us confidence to play against the best. We needed to win in the one-day series after doing badly in the Tests. There was a lot of talk about how we should not play international cricket and we were under tremendous pressure. We knew we had to put up a good fight against Australia. Winning was a fantastic bonus", Ashraful spoke about the big win to ESPNCricinfo at the time.
The day marked an important turnaround in Bangladesh's cricket history. While it took some more years for them to regularly beat top Test nations, the belief that they could do it stemmed from Ashraful's hammering of the Aussies at Cardiff that day.Published 18 Jun 2017, 13:42 IST