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Dateline Chigago (12/19/2004): It's morning again in the US, and along with the rising sun comes the bittersweet realization that the great promise of redemption from halfway across the world is all but gone. What is only a cricket match to most becomes a way of life to the maniacal few, and for those Bangladeshi fans who were mesmerized by what Mohammad Ashraful and his supporting cast did to the Indians yesterday in Chittagong, the question of the day is ?Did it really happen??

Temptations of the Promised Land

Published: 19th December, 2004

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Its morning again in the US, and along with the rising sun comes the bittersweet realization that the great promise of redemption from halfway across the world is all but gone. What is only a cricket match to most becomes a way of life to the maniacal few, and for those Bangladeshi fans who were mesmerized by what Mohammad Ashraful and his supporting cast did to the Indians yesterday in Chittagong, the question of the day is ?Did it really happen??

Did we really score 397 runs in a day? Did we really lose 16 wickets, the last 9 in less than a session? Did we really miss the follow on target by a mere 7 runs after scoring over 300, massive by our standards? Did Ashraful with his magnificent unbeaten 158 really strike fear in the hearts of the opposition? Then just when we thought salvation was near, did he first chase a suicidal run in the last ball of the first innings, and then not come in to steady the top of the order while his teammates were throwing it all away in the second? On the morning of the fourth day, are Bangladesh again an innings short of the opposition? Many will complain about the suspect umpiring, which was surely poor but which probably went both ways. I wonder why Nazmul could not have faced a couple more balls in the first innings ? the fear of which prompted his run out and the follow on. Most of all we will silently accept that any innings of class by Bangladesh will always, inevitably, be followed up by one of complete chaos. It is as if it were a mathematical formula, indestructible.

Magnificant 158 not out from Ashraful

Magnificant 158 not out from Ashraful

The morning papers and cricket guru Imtiaz on Banglacricket.com rightly reminds us that Ashraful did not deliver the ?promised land?; he only brought us close to it. In fact, Aminul Islam Bulbul hit a sublime 145 in the maiden Test against India, only to see Bangladesh capitulate for 90 in the second innings, a match uncannily similar to the one being played this week. So perhaps we are no closer or further away from the ?promised land? than when we first started.

What I will remember most of the night will be how grown men and women stayed glued to a screen all night, watching a little man play savior. We were in the middle of yet another infamous Bangladeshi ?dawat?, yet for once the cricket reigned supreme. There were calculations and counter-estimates, how many more runs to the follow on target, can we bat all day, how many sessions will the Indians be forced to play in their second innings to rebuild their lead, can we last on Day 5 to draw it? The heart wanted to believe, even if the calculations did not supply the right data.

Bleary-eyed as I type, on a Chicago morning so cold I hesitate to go out to get the Sunday paper from the driveway, I?m not sure what happened last night in Chittagong. It was probably more of the same, what has happened many times before. But then a part of me believes it was exactly the tonic that my soul needed at this moment, that little bit of hope and pride that will keep me up again tonight and the many nights to come, hoping against hope for some redemption. And for that I must thank Mohammad Ashraful.


Rafiq Ahmed is a staff member of BanglaCricket and writes from the frozen city of Chicago. He goes by the nick Rafiq in the BanglaCricket forums - Eds

 

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