24 years of the historic 'Mohammad Rafique Show'

Shajedul Rahin | Tuesday, 17 May 2022

The year 1998. Winning an ODI against any team was a hard row to hoe for Bangladesh. For 12 long years, Bangladesh had never won a single ODI match, having played 23 in that time period, until May 17, 1998. 

It is obvious that the first international win would have a special place in the history of any team. In Bangladesh's case, it was made more memorable by a crucial tactical move with the 'batter' Mohammad Rafique.

It was the second ODI between Bangladesh and Kenya, of the tri-nation series between India, Kenya and Bangladesh in India. 

Before that match, Bangladesh had faced Kenya twice, both in 1997, and had lost by 150 runs and 8 wickets respectively. That time around, Bangladesh lost the toss and were sent to bowl first at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium in Hyderabad. 

Batting first, Kenya put on 236 on the board before getting all out in the 49th over, which was 39 more than the previous highest score of Bangladesh against Kenya. 

Though it was a collective effort from the bowlers, Khaled Mahmud Shujon (2/38), Enamul Haque Moni (2/45) and Morshed Ali Khan (1/26), Mohammad Rafique was the best of the lot, with a bowling figure of 3/56. 

Being introduced after 6 bowlers in that match, even after Athar Ali Khan, Rafique played a crucial role in restricting Kenya down to 236, as he picked up 3 consecutive wickets at the end. The bowling was enough for Rafique to make him end up in the headlines in the following day's newspapers, but what he did next made him make the headlines in the most unexpected way. 

236 was never chased before by the team and Bangladesh sent Mohammad Rafique as an opening partner of Athar Ali Khan, as he could go inside-out in the initial overs and score some valuable runs quickly at the beginning. 

Although Mohammad Rafique had the ability to play a quick cameo, the move of sending him as an opener was a big gamble back then. 

Rafique had opened only once in ODIs before that day and ended up scoring 1 off 11 balls. On that day though, he was in a mood of giving the pressure back to the bowlers. He characteristically went over the infield on both on and off and hit 11 fours and 1 six, taking on Aasif Karim, Maurice Odumbe, Mohammad Sheikh and Steve Tikolo. He ended on 77 off 87, which is his highest ODI career score. 

Athar Ali Khan and Mohammad Rafique put on a partnership of 137 in just 26 overs together, which formed the foundation of the historic run-chase. 

100 was needed in 24 overs when the opening partnership was broken, and after that, the contributions from Akram Khan (39 off 51) and Aminul Islam Bulbul (20* off 41) were enough to take Bangladesh home, for the first time in the history. Needless to say, the Player of the Match of Bangladesh’s first international win was Mohammad Rafique, the hero with the bat and ball.

The 6-wicket victory was neither against the biggest of opponents nor by a mentionable big margin. But it made Bangladesh believe in themselves. 

The outcome? An announcement of Bangladesh's rise in the cricket world, and the World Cup victories against Scotland and Pakistan in the following year.

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