DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh pulled off a fairytale maiden test victory over Australia on Wednesday as cricket witnessed a second triumph for the underdog in as many days with the Ashes protagonists both on the receiving end of surprise losses.
Less than 24 hours after Shai Hope’s second century of the match secured a series-levelling victory for West Indies against England at Leeds, the Shere Bangla National Stadium on the outskirts of Dhaka became the venue of another upset.
Playing his 50th test, local talisman Shakib Al Hasan lit up the stadium with his all-round brilliance to script a famous 20-run victory that gives Bangladesh a 1-0 lead in the two-test series.
Australia tried their hardest to dampen home hopes when a 130-run partnership between David Warner and Steve Smith revived Australia’s bid to chase down the 265-run target and salvage a win after being outplayed for a majority of the match.
Warner tempered his natural aggression but did not altogether abandon it, as was evident from the 16 boundaries and one six in his belligerent 112.
The southpaw conquered his spin demons to register a 19th test century, and second in Asia, but he fell just short of guiding Australia home on the fourth day of an enthralling encounter.
Skipper Smith led a charmed life at the other end, spilled at mid-on by Tamim Iqbal, but Australia’s most assured weapon against Bangladesh’s rampaging spinners could not make the most of his reprieve.
Shakib sent back Warner and Smith, who made 37, in the morning session when Australia lost five wickets.
The left-arm spinner then snuffed out whatever realistic hopes Australia had of making it five straight wins over Bangladesh by dismissing Glenn Maxwell with the first delivery after lunch break.
Pat Cummins, the lone paceman to taste success in the spin-dominated contest, blasted an unbeaten 33 down the order to inject some late excitement but was left stranded as Australia folded for 244.
Shakib claimed 5-85 and was the obvious man-of-the-match choice for his first innings score of 84 and a 10-wicket haul.
Wednesday’s win came five months after Bangladesh secured their first test win over Sri Lanka and a month before the first anniversary of their maiden triumph over England in the longest form of the game.
Seventeen years since granted the test status, there are still whispers whether Bangladesh belong in the elite group but skipper Mushfiqur Rahim remains satisfied with the progress the team has made under his leadership.
“If you look at our home performance, it has been pretty consistent,” he said. “Against England also, we were very close in the first test and beat them in the second test. That’s the belief we have.”
Shakib articulated that belief in a pre-series media interaction where he said Bangladesh were capable of winning both the tests against Australia and the opening triumph has filled Mushfiqur with similar optimism.
“Hopefully we’ll come harder at them in the next test and hopefully we’ll seal the series,” the captain said.
Counterpart Smith believed Australia paid the price for a poor first innings display, especially since they had to bat fourth on a track where the ball both bounced unpredictably and turned viciously.
“It was a great test match, credit to Bangladesh the way they played,” Smith said.
“We probably let ourselves down in the first innings with the bat, probably should have made a few more there. It was pretty difficult batting here in the second innings and I thought we did pretty well to get 240 in the end.”
Bangladesh’s three-pronged spin attack claimed 19 of the 20 Australian wickets to fall with Usman Khawaja’s run out in the first innings the only victim to elude the slow bowlers.
Australia will slip one place to fifth in the test rankings even if they level the series by winning the second test in Chittagong from Monday. A second defeat would see them drop another place.
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by John O'Brien