Mashrafe hopes to channel spirit of 2005




We’re confident enough to play against Australia – Mashrafe

Bangladesh have only ever beaten Australia once in a full international. Across all formats, starting with their first encounter in an ODI in Sharjah 27 years ago, one victory – and perhaps all the more memorable because of its rarity. The summer of 2005 is much-fabled in English cricket but it held significance for Bangladesh, too.

It was in Cardiff, 12 years ago, where Aftab Ahmed hit Jason Gillespie down the ground for six and then inside-edged the winning run, sealing Bangladesh’s chase of 250 in the final over. For England, this was another sign that Australia could be beaten in the tumultuous Ashes series to follow; for Bangladesh, one more staging post on their journey to being recognised as a serious cricketing nation. And Mashrafe Mortaza was there.

Mashrafe, now Bangladesh’s captain, was 21 years old and playing his 20th ODI. He remembers removing Adam Gilchrist, lbw for 0, in the first over of the match (how could he forget?) and he also recalls travelling around in a limousine to celebrate victory later that night. No one else from that NatWest Series match will be involved when the two teams meet again in the Champions Trophy on Monday – but Mashrafe will be able to look to his players in the dressing room at The Oval and say he knows how it feels to beat Australia.

“Yes, Cardiff – 12 years back,” he said with a smile of recollection at Bangladesh’s pre-match press conference. “Obviously, tomorrow is a new day and it has been a good memory for us. We are confident enough to play against them. We will try our level best.

“I can remember only that I got Gilchrist out – and in the night time we were driven in a limousine. It was a great memory for us, especially for me, in this team. That’s what I can remember. But the team has changed. The team is playing good cricket now. So let’s see what happens.”

Bangladesh’s meetings with Australia have been infrequent over the years. Their group fixture at the 2015 World Cup was rained off – a threat which lingers over south London, too – and they last contested an ODI in 2011. Steven Smith’s well-intentioned referencing of Mushfiqur Rahim as “a good young player” (Mushfiqur, 29, has played 286 times for his country and debuted on that same Bangladesh tour of England in 2005) before this game hinted at the lack of familiarity.

Beyond reminding Australia of who they are, Bangladesh are aiming to make an impact at the Champions Trophy, having missed out on the last two editions of the tournament. They gave a good account of themselves in the first half of their opener against England, posting 305 for 6 thanks to Tamim Iqbal’s hundred, but lacked penetration with the ball in an eight-wicket defeat.

In that match, Bangladesh left out Mehedi Hasan, a frontline spinner, in favour of playing Imrul Kayes at No. 3 and asking Mosaddek Hossain, Soumya Sarkar and Sabbir Rahman to deliver ten overs with the ball. Mashrafe conceded that the balance of the side was something they were likely to address, with Mehedi or Sunzamul Islam perhaps likeliest to come in given the game will take place on a used pitch (the same as that for South Africa’s win over Sri Lanka on Saturday).

Aftab Ahmed celebrates after leading Bangladesh to victory in Cardiff 12 years ago © Getty Images

“In our previous match, I thought we could defend 305 but we couldn’t get wickets in the middle period,” Mashrafe said. “Getting wickets really matters in cricket, so we definitely have to think about our combination. Since we could score 300-plus with eight batsmen, then why wouldn’t be able to do with seven batsmen? What can happen if we don’t play five bowlers, that is also in our mind.

“But one thing is clear, we have to score a large total. Normally 300 in one-day cricket is good enough, but with the [fielding restrictions] they have got now, and if the wicket is like this, you have to rethink it.”

Before the start of the Champions Trophy, Bangladesh rose to their highest ODI ranking of No. 6. Since 2015, they have knocked England out of a World Cup, and won bilateral series against India, South Africa and Pakistan. A second-ever victory over Australia would ice the cake nicely – as well as keep alive their hopes of reaching the semi-finals – but Mashrafe, as ever, was focused on deflecting pressure from his side.

“Yes, we’re playing so far good cricket,” he said. “But overseas we have to improve a little more. We are learning, and hopefully we’ll cope with all the pressures tomorrow and we will try to deliver our best. Whatever I say, we have to calculate a bit more, which area we need to do a little bit more like batting – an 30 extra runs – or when bowling, for the batters’ benefit, if we can get ourselves into a bowling groove, if we can cut down 30 more runs, that will really help the team win.”

Pull it off and Mashrafe’s players can head to Cardiff, where they play New Zealand, with an eye on the last four. Is it too much of a stretch to think they might need that limo again?

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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