2015 is for Bangladesh cricket what 1971 was for its independence-loving people.
It was early Eid for 160 million people as Bangladesh ushered in a new dawn in their cricketing history with a nine-wicket win over South Africa at Chittagong on Wednesday.
With three back-to-back ODI series wins at home against Pakistan, India and now South Africa, the Tigers turned the summer of 2015 into the most glorious period in the nation’s sporting history.
They also broke from the past of never winning a series after losing first game.
Having lost the first ODI to South Africa tamely, the Tigers fought back convincingly in the second ODI to level the series after they had whitewashed Pakistan 3-0 and India 2-1.
But Bangladesh’s brilliant opening pair reduced the third ODI to a one-sided affair as they chased down South Africa’s 168 for 9 in a rain-scarred match reduced to 40 overs in Chittagong’s Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium.Man-of-the-Match Soumya Sarkar (90 off 75 balls) was undoubtedly the hero of the Bangladesh win, ably supported by his senior partner Tamim Iqbal (61 off 77).
He fell trying to reach his century in a hurry but by then Bangladesh had the match in their pocket.
Tamim and Liton Kumar Das easily saw the Tigers through a comfortable nine-wicket win to lift the third ODI series.
Das heaved leg-spinner Imran Tahir over midwicket for the winning runs as the roof came off the stadium.
The Soumya-Tamim 154-run opening stand, their third century partnership, was the highest partnership by a Bangladesh pair against South Africa.That it comes after his scintillating 88 in a 135-run stand with Mahmudullah that helped the Tigers to a comfortable victory in the second ODI at Mirpur to level the series heralds the advent of a new star in the horizon.
That Soumya, like Bangladesh new bowling hero Mustafizur Rahman, is also from Satkhira marks the beginning of a new era in the country’s cricket with most top players now hailing from small towns and even rural outbacks.
On Wednesday, Soumya looked in complete control as he toyed with the Proteas attack by playing shots all round the wicket.
He was particularly harsh on paceman Kagiso Rabada, flicking and lifting him for three consecutive fours in his fourth over, reducing Tamim to a spectator.
Later he sent deliveries from leg-spinner Imran Tahir and paceman Morne Morkel over the fence with delectable hooks and off-the-pad lofted flicks.
As he cut and pulled, hooked and lifted the South African bowlers with aplomb, old-timers saw shadows of India’s former captain Sourav Ganguly in his strokeplay.
Two exquisite late cuts off paceman Kyle Abbott were straight out of a bygone era of superb touch rather than the heaves and play-and-miss of limited-overs cricket.
Tamim also played some handsome shots but was clearly happy to allow the in-form Soumya to dominate the proceedings.
The 22-year old was named Man-of-the-Series for his back-to-back match-winning knocks to trigger wild celebrations late into the night.
Earlier, the bowlers had put the Tigers in the driver’s seat as they restricted the formidable Proteas to 168 for 9.
A 63-run fifth wicket stand between JP Duminy (51) and David Miller ( 44) brought some respectability to the South African score and gave their bowlers something to bowl at.
Skipper Mashrafe bin Mortaza introduced the spinners fairly early on to exploit the uneven bounce in the pitch after Hashim Amla won the toss and elected to bat.
Left-arm seamer Mustafizur Rahman sent opener Quinton de Kock’s leg stump cartwheeling with a beautiful in-dipping swinging yorker even before the huge crowd had settled down at the stadium.
Faf Du Plessis (6) lost patience after a tight spell by veteran spinner Shakib Al Hasan and holed out in the deep going for a mighty cross-batted sweep.
When skipper Amla (15) departed caught behind off Shakib, the South Africans were in deep trouble.
Mahmudullah Riyad had Riley Roussouw ( 17) caught behind in his very first ball and the Proteas innings was tottering at 50 for 4.
Soon after came the rains – and then the South African fightback as Duminy and Miller played sensibly.
They could never break free but scored off the odd loose ball.
Duminy fought until the very end before holing out to Liton Das in the covers off Rubel Hossain.
Shakib was the pick of the Bangladesh bowlers returning 3 for 33 with Mustafizur (2 for 24) and Rubel (2 for 29) coming up to strike just when it was needed.