And so it happened as if it was meant to be - Bangladesh's 100th Test match ended in smiles, hugs, delight and victory for a team who has over the years been the laughing stock and whipping boys of international cricket. Perhaps the fact that it was their 100th Test match inspired the Bangladeshis to turn in one of their best performances ever in international cricket.
Bangladesh's previous record against Sri Lanka in Tests was nothing short of abysmal with fifteen defeats and two draws before their remarkable four wicket win in Colombo, on Sunday. Ahead of the series, very few people gave them a chance against an upbeat Sri Lankan team on their home shores. The series was expected to be a comfortable 2-0 win for the Sri Lankans but this Bangladesh team is made of sterner stuff than their predecessors and showed resilience, grit and determination to bounce back after a loss in the first Test and level the series.
After Sri Lanka scoring 338 in their first innings, the story of the match was expected to go a familiar way, with Bangladesh fighting hard in their first innings, being competitive, but then capitulating in the latter stages of the match. However, a first innings score of 467 built around the ever-reliable Shakib Al Hasan's 116 and supported well by the lower-middle order, Bangladesh found themselves in control of the match with Sri Lanka regularly losing wickets despite an excellent century from Karunaratne and vital lower order contributions from Dilruwan Perera and Suranga Lakmal.
With 191 to win in the fourth innings, all eyes were on the visitors and at 22 for 2 it all seemed to be heading a familiar way with heartache for Mushfiqur Rahim's team. Once again it seemed to be a case of so near, yet so far for Bangladesh. But then, up stepped the battle-hardened and aggressive opening batsman Tamim Iqbal and youngster Sabbir Rahman, playing only his sixth Test match, to forge a crucial and match-turning century partnership. Despite a few scares on their way Bangladesh held their nerve to seal a vital four wicket win.
To many the remarkable win against Sri Lanka could be a turning point in Bangladesh cricket's fortunes. In recent times they have proved themselves to be competitive in the twenty and fifty over formats with impressive wins against most of the leading cricket playing nations. However in Test cricket Bangladesh has flattered to deceive and have failed to be competitive for over five days in the toughest format of the game. A record of only nine wins, fifteen draws and 76 defeats in Test cricket must have been frustrating for the key stakeholders of Bangladesh cricket. Bangladesh's away record in Test cricket is equally disappointing with only 4 wins in 47 Tests, having lost 40 of their away Tests. A lack of self-belief and dearth of patience and maturity when required has been a constant problem.
With more of their players playing around the world and gaining experience and exposure, this can only be a good thing for Bangladesh cricket. The likes of Shakib, Tamim and Mushfiqur are the backbone of Bangladesh cricket and will be the players looked upon to inspire the new generation of cricketers. This trio has the ability, the experience and above all the talent to see Bangladesh become competitive in all formats, not just the limited-overs. In Mehedi Hasan and Mustafizur Rahman they have two bowlers who can single-handedly turn the course of a match. Taking twenty wickets has been a problem over the years in Test cricket and perhaps with this duo at their disposal, Bangladesh can turn it around and consistently bowl the opposition out twice to make the task of their batsmen a lot easier.
Bangladesh is a cricket-mad nation. It deserves success and with their Board investing heavily in cricket at all levels, the signs are positive. The Bangladesh Cricket Board has its sights on their team climbing the ICC rankings in all formats and this is a dream that now does not seem impossible. High quality cricketers are being produced through a robust system. Top level coaches are being asked to work with the cricketers of all ages and a lot of investment is being made by the BCB and that is paying rich dividends.
There have been several false dawns for Bangladesh cricket over the years but this win against Sri Lanka could prove to be pivotal in the development of cricket in the country. They can now consider themselves as a competitive unit and look at themselves as not only having the players to compete with the best teams, but also possessing that mental toughness to challenge the best teams. With this special win, Bangladesh has turned a corner in Test cricket.
The future of Bangladesh cricket looks bright and their cricketers are finally starting to show that they are indeed Tigers and not house cats.
Saj Sadiq is a freelance writer and chief editor of Pakistan cricket website PakPassion. He tweets at @Saj_PakPassion.
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Updated Date: Mar 20, 2017 10:16:51 IST