Mirpur, October 30 (The Daily Star): He was born the year Bangladesh celebrated its first major success on a cricketing plain. He was only three years old when the fledgling cricketing nation was granted Test status after that famous ICC Trophy triumph in 1997.
And on Sunday the 19-year-old Mehedi Hasan, who has grown up loving and playing the game like many other youngsters, became the vibrant new face of Bangladesh’s third historic achievement and understandably the biggest in terms of success on the field. He took a stunning 12 wickets, six in the second innings, at Mirpur as Bangladesh stunned England by 108 runs — their first Test victory of substance and against a top Test nation.
The smiling assassin from Khulna played a stellar role in that dramatic win in the second Test at the home of Bangladesh cricket, which witnessed the fall of ten English wickets in the final session of what was the third day of a captivating contest.
The two-Test series that ended 1-1 seemed to be heading west when England, set a stiff target of 273 to win, raced to 100 for no loss at Tea. And when both teams headed for the break the biggest crowd in the match so far and millions of fans glued to television sets started to feel betrayed once more.
But once Mehedi struck with the first ball after tea, it served as the last twist in a fascinating tale. His wicket of a dangerous Ben Duckett, who struck a fluent 56 off 64 balls, not only brought back the roar in the stands but also injected the belief in the Tigers camp that they could win.
And it was all about a magnificent turnaround after that with Mehedi finding a perfect partner in Shakib Al Hasan to rip through the England hearts. Shakib had Joe Root leg before for one in the next over, leaving England at 105-2. Mehedi then dismissed Garry Balance and Moeen Ali in quick succession before removing the biggest obstacle — England captain Alistair Cook, who survived two lbw appeals and a caught and bowled chance on his way to 59 before buckling under tremendous pressure. Cook firmly pushed a quicker Mehedi delivery to silly mid-off where Mominul Haque clung on to a fantastic low catch. With Cook gone England were reduced to 127-5.
Bangladesh’s countdown for their biggest success started when Mehedi hurled in a peach of delivery that England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow could only fend to the leg slip for a simple catch. It was then a one-over magic from Shakib that put the Tigers on the verge of a famous win. The left-arm spinner, who had an off-day on the second day, removed all-rounder Ben Stokes (25) with the third ball of the 43rd over and trapped Adil Rashid in front with the very next ball, before having debutant Zafar Ansari caught brilliantly at short leg with the last ball of the over. England slumped to 161-9.
Then it was Mehedi who fittingly ended England’s stunning collapse by having number eleven Steven Finn. And the moment umpire Kumar Dharmasena raised his dreaded finger to rule Finn leg before, the whole stadium erupted with joy and the players were involved in a race to capture the stumps — the biggest souvenirs they can keep as long as they live.
If that was the most sobering moment in Bangladesh’s cricketing history, then Shakib’s salute to Stokes after having him clean bowled has become biggest image of a magnificent contest over the last one month, where every game — the three ODI series that the visitors won 2-1 and the first Test in Chittagong that England won by 22 runs — was a cliffhanger.
England will now head to India for yet another demanding series. But they will certainly feel that their decision to tour Bangladesh despite those security threats was worth it. And for Bangladesh it was again time to thank the England team for embarking on this tour, which cricket fans in this part of the world will fondly remember as one of the most entertaining series. Thank you, England.