Another year gone by, another year wondering when that first test win will come. The passing year had its ups and downs. Starting at Zimbabwe and then the West Indies series where Bangladesh had a chance in all the games. Those two series were good for a claim about test status however it was all forgotten after the Asia Cup, ICC Champions Trophy and New Zealand series. Then, when we thought Bangladesh were about to hit rock bottom came Mohammad Ashraful with a magnificent 158*. That inspired Bangladesh in the one-day series and they finished the year with a bang, becoming favorites for the Zimbabwe series. 2004 was a year of comebacks, milestones, birth and the victorious rebirth.
Bangladesh (Test Performance):
8 tests played, 6 tests lost and one washed out draw and the first earned draw. Still doesn't read too well. They had the upper hand in only 1 test of the year. Four different centurions for the year, 3 come in the same match. That match at Gros Islet was the highlight of the year for sure resulted in the only draw that was earned. Highest total in an innings of 416, three centuries, a declaration and a first innings lead. None of the other tests came even close to that sorts of achievement. There was only one more century that year which came in December by Mohammad Ashraful and they didn't pass 400 again. Nor did they declare or have a first innings lead. They conceded their largest total in an innings of 559 against New Zealand and the most they could restrict a team to was 352, nothing like the 175 of the previous year. This shows that Bangladesh bowled worse than they did last year and the averages will prove that point. In 2003 the bowling average for Bangladesh was 45.7 while in 2004 the bowling average was a disgraceful 56.1, nothing to write home about. However the batting was better, averaging 22.8 as opposed to 20.4 last year.
Bangladesh (ODI Performance):
Five years of waiting ended with the first one-dayer of the year and the first match under the leadership of Habibul Bashar. Bangladesh beat Zimbabwe by 8 runs. They could have won that series with some unlikely heroes coming forward. Tareq Aziz and Khaled Mahmud. The only difference between the sides was the experience of Heath Streak, a presence that will be missed in 2005. On to the West Indies, rain affected shortened matches. They almost started that one as they did against Zimbabwe, losing by a single wicket. Manjural Islam played his best game to date. Bangladesh had a chance in the other two but the West Indies showed off their talent and won comfortably. The Asia Cup did start with a win thankfully. You would hope that they would beat Hong Kong and they did so easily. However the rest of that series, the Champions Trophy and the New Zealand series shouldn't be talked of. However they could have won the first game against New Zealand, chasing down just over 200, Bangladesh reminded us of what they're capable of, collapsing to be 87 all out. Against India in the first match they never looked like winning however some late order hitting made the result look closer than the game was, losing by 11 runs. Then on December 26 they got what they wanted, a victory over India, the win was due to some great fielding. Due to Rajin's fine fielding he kept his place in the team and finished the year with a fine 82 to see Bangladesh past 250 for the first time in 3 years. Three wins after a drought of five years. 19 matches, 3 wins and 16 losses read a lot better than 2003's 21 matches, 20 losses and one no result. 2003 reads better in that the most they conceded then was 323 as opposed to the 348 of 2004. The batting average for the year was 19.2 a whole two runs better than last and the bowling average 32.1 is far better than 43.5 of the previous year. 2004, the year Bangladesh learned the one-day game.
Another up-and-down year for the ex-captain and the rollercoaster ride continues. After being dumped as captain, Khaled Mahmud abruptly retired from international cricket. This caused tears from several players and the BCB convinced him to change the decision, making him available for the one-dayers. He made himself count taking 17 wickets at 32.64. It took him past 50 for his career and he almost won Bangladesh the series against Zimbabwe taking 4-19, his first 4-for and the best ODI figures for Bangladesh at the time. He has been instrumental in all 3 wins against test playing nations and so is a proven match winner. Even better he conceded 4.63 an over, a great econ for the one-day game. He has made vital cameo innings, having a whack around at the end against India, Hong Kong and playing a great supporting role to Mohammad Ashraful's 31 ball 50. However for every good innings there was a bad one, finishing the year with 181 runs at 13.92 and a highest score of only 34*. The decision to come out of retirement was proven to be a good one and now he makes the team purely as a bowler
Mashrafe made immediate impact on return
Missing for 11 months of the year, Mashrafe returned from a career threatening injury against India and straight away being regarded as the best Bangladeshi bowler, he troubled all the batsmen, dismissing Dravid with a beauty on his return. He bowled many overs, showing he was fitter than ever. He took 5 wickets in the two innings he bowled in at 37 runs per wicket. He was overworked in Dhaka and so in Chittagong he bowled shorter spells and it worked for him. Taking 3-60 and made his presence felt. In the second one-dayer at Dhaka he really showed how much he was missed, taking 2-37 and hitting a magnificent 31* his highest score at the time. Also taking a great catch, Mashrafe had a great allround game and claiming "man of the match" honors as Bangladesh produced a historic victory. The next day was a different story, a full strength India hit him for over 60 runs and he went wicketless. However he didn't stop producing with the bat though, hitting a very quick 39. From the two one dayers he played he scored 70 runs at a strike rate of 118.64.
After some time off Mohammad Ashraful returned to take the field against Zimbabwe and almost returned in the best possible way. He played adventurously and was unlucky to be dismissed for 98. He hit half-centuries in his first innings against West Indies, New Zealand and India and being the most productive batsman of the year. But no-one would have imagined what was to come in Chittagong. He took on Harbhajan and was on top of the attack, playing a sensational 158* off about 190 balls. He didn't get enough support due to some poor umpiring decisions but it was the highest score by any Bangladeshi batsmen in the history of international cricket and helped his team score over 300. Ashraful hit 520 runs in 2004 at 40, much more than any other Bangladeshi with 1 century and 4 fifties. He hit two half centuries in the shorter form of the game, one a mature 66 against Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup and the other came off 31 balls, the fastest fifty for Bangladesh which won Bangladesh their first game in five years. Ashraful finished the year with 332 one-day runs at 18.44.
It was an interesting year for Mohammad Rafique. He didn't dominate as he did in 2003 but he was always performing and taking wickets. He was unlucky to finish the year with only 1 five wicket haul. He was robbed of several wickets in one innings against New Zealand and produced one spell against India that ripped through their middle-lower orders. In 2004 he took 25 test wickets at 39, not a patch on his 33 last year but still more than any other Bangladeshi and broke into the PWC's top 20 bowlers list. His bowling didn't raise as many eyebrows as his batting, hitting his maiden test century against the West Indies at Gros Islet. He batted with the tail and got great support from number 11 Tareq Aziz to hit his highest first-class score and take the total over 400. He scored 377 runs in 2004 at 26.94, only bettered by Mohammad Ashraful. His one-day batting wasn't that good though, being moved up the order against India. At the end of the year Rafique had 150 runs at 10.71. The left arm spinner grabbed himself 17 one-day wickets at 37, taking him past 50 in his career and claiming his first 4-for against New Zealand.
Picked from the under 19's Aftab Ahmed made his test debut against New Zealand. He didn't do anything special hitting 28 and 20, but in a year of surprises his one-day bowling performance certainly came out of the blue. Bowling for the first time in an international match Aftab ran through the New Zealand batting lineup and claimed 5-31, the only 5-for by a Bangladeshi. He finished the year with 6 one-day wickets at 20.16. He played one more test in 2004, at his home ground in Chittagong scoring 43 and 5, finishing with an average of 23.75. He was picked as a batsman and he proved that with 65 against India and in the same match a direct throw at the stumps to end the match on December 26 with a historic winning note. An exciting batsman and fielder and only 19 years old, Aftab is a good prospect for the future.
His batting let down many a fans and he got criticism for his captaincy. But through it all he has become the most successful captain in just a year. Suffering from thumb and toe injures, Bashar only managed 6 tests in 2004 and didn't produce what was expected of him. Throwing away his wicket time after time, it is apparent that Bashar has learned nothing. His annual average of 27.09 was lifted significantly by his highest score, 113 in Gros Islet. It was a fine innings in a lousy year for the captain and his lack of runs in the one-day game continued, hitting 266 runs at 16.62. It can't be easy having the weight of a nation on your shoulders, and a fifty out of the blue, the much needed wins and lack of a replacement has been enough to ensure that Bashar retains the captaincy and a regular slot in the first XI.
2003 STAT FACT