The World Cup T20 hasn’t historically been Bangladesh’s most favourable tournament. Particularly batting-wise, they’ve struggled to keep up with the more successful teams, failing to even score a team total over 180 in 6 editions.
Yet, there have been occasions, when individuals stood out with their scintillating batting innings.
Tamim Iqbal’s unbeaten knocks of 83 and 103 against Netherlands and Oman respectively, are among those. So is Shakib Al Hassan’s 84 against arguably the best T20I bowling attack of the time, Pakistan.
However, there happens to be an innings, far more memorable and special to all those who’ve witnessed it.
Time to rewind to the very first T20 World Cup in 2007. On a sunny afternoon in Johannesburg, Bangladesh were about to play their first match of the tournament against the West Indies.
The West Indies had already garnered a favourable reputation in the limited time that T20Is had been around. Going up against them was going to be no easy task.
Having restricted the men in maroon to 164, Bangladesh did not get off to the best possible start, losing both openers within the first 4 overs.
That’s when the then captain Mohammad Ashraful walked out to join the experienced Aftab Ahmed at the crease.
The plan was simple. Ashraful planned on counter-attacking the West Indian pacers, while Aftab Ahmed would hold one end up, occasionally pouncing on the loose deliveries.
The duo made the execution look even simpler than the plan itself. Ashraful took the attack to both of West Indies’ premier fast bowlers, Darren Powell and Ravi Rampaul.
While it was as effective a T20I innings as one can be, the unusually spectacular stroke play left viewers mesmerised and the opponents hapless.
ESPNcricinfo reporter Kanishka Balachandran was quoted saying, “The most impressive aspect of the innings was that it was studded with genuine strokes and not ugly slogs or swipes.”
The Ash-scoop (as it would later be fondly named by fans) was in full display and garnered its own fanbase. Ashraful went on to score 50 off just 20 balls, which was the fastest T20I half-century at the time. He was dismissed for 61, but by then, Bangladesh’s win was just a matter of formality.
With Aftab anchoring the ship till the finish line was crossed, Bangladesh cruised to a 6-wicket victory, with 2 overs to spare.
Once again, the world was awe-struck by this young cricketer’s ability and sheer talent. Along with the pacing of the innings, stroke play, strategic partnership and aggressive intent, what also made the innings stand out is that it gave hope, the hope of a bright and exciting future in cricket’s newest format.
Unfortunately, the hope was short-lived. Bangladesh haven’t won a main stage game in any edition of the WT20 since.
Nonetheless, that innings and the subsequent victory helped kickstart Bangladesh’s interest and excitement regarding the shortest format.
Bangladesh are an ever-improving team and thus the fans would be eagerly waiting for some terrific innings in the upcoming ICC World T20 in Oman and the UAE.
As of now, Mohammad Ashraful’s vintage 61 off 27 remains the best innings by a Bangladeshi batsman in the format’s biggest event.