Bangladesh passed a busy time in Test cricket in 2017 as they played nine Test matches against strong opposition like New Zealand away, India away, Sri Lanka away, Australia at home and South Africa away.
The solitary home series was not easy either as Bangladesh played against mighty Australia in the middle of 2017 so nine Tests in a year was not a bad experience for the Tigers as they play less amount of the longer version compared to the other Test nations.
Statistics say Bangladesh played nine Tests and won only two. They lost two series 2-0, drew the remaining two 1-1 and lost a solitary Test against India. But the stats don't reflect Bangladesh’s achievement.
How has Bangladesh performed in Tests in 2017? What have they gained? Let's focus on the Tigers' achievements series by series.
The first challenge was New Zealand in their home condition. The first Test against the Kiwis was played in Wellington. The green pitch and windy condition was a big hurdle for Bangladesh, particularly for the batsmen. The Kiwis elected to bowl, as expected. But Tigers opener Tamim Iqbal started the innings superbly with a brave approach and scored 56 against a formidable Kiwi pace bowling attack. Those 56 runs might not sound big, but the brave counter-attacking innings set the tone for rest of the Bangladesh batsmen and made them believe that they can score runs in difficult circumstances with proper approach and shot-playing.
And then, all-rounder Shakib al Hasan and wicketkeeper-batsman Mushfiqur Rahim created history for Bangladesh. Shakib smashed a record 217 to achieve the highest individual score by a Bangladeshi. Mushfiq also blasted a magnificent 159. Their 359-run partnership is the highest for Bangladesh for any wicket. Bangladesh however, eventually lost the Test, despite posting a mammoth 595 for the loss of eight wickets declared in the first innings.
An injury-hit Bangladesh also lost the second and final Test to concede the series 2-0. Bangladesh did though gain some positives for the future.
Virat Kohli and Co then inflicted a heavy 208-run defeat to Bangladesh in the one-off Test in Hyderabad where the Indian captain was in inspiring touch, scoring 204 in the first innings.
The next challenge was away to Sri Lanka. The island nation were going through a transitional period after the retirement of some of modern day legends like Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. But still, the Lankans were more than a match for any opposition at home as they beat Australia 3-0 just a few months prior to Bangladesh's arrival.
In the first Test in Galle, Bangladesh were blown away as the host proved too strong for the Tigers. The next Test in Colombo was a historic one for the Tigers as it was their 100th match in 17 years of Test cricket.
Bangladesh made quite a few changes as the experienced Mahmudullah was dropped amid much drama. But the Tigers soon made history as they beat Sri Lanka for the first time at their home ground, at P Sara Oval Ground, thus making their 100th Test memorable.
Two knocks turned out to be the major highlights for the Tigers with Shakib hammering a hundred in the first innings and Tamim playing an outstanding 82 while chasing 191 during the fifth day at P Sara Oval.
Riding on the confidence gained from the Sri Lanka win, Bangladesh were ready to face the Aussies at home home back in June-July. Bangladesh started out by predicting a 2-0 series sweep on the eve of the first Test. Such confidence surprised the Australian camp a little bit.
But Bangladesh duly proved their worth as they defeated Australia in the first Mirpur Test. Tamim struck 70-odd runs in both innings while Shakib picked up a five-wicket haul in each innings.
Australia were under great pressure ahead of the Ashes and only one Test away from suffering a whitewash against Bangladesh. The tension increased in the Aussie camp but they held their nerve and defeated the Tigers comprehensively in the second Chittagong Test.
And so, yet again, Bangladesh exhibited improvements in Test cricket and some promising performances in the longest format of the game.
Then came probably the Tigers' toughest assignment in 2017, an away series against South Africa. As it were, Shakib took a break from the two-Test series and Bangladesh just surrendered in both the five-dayers against the Proteas.
Losing against South Africa in South Africa is not a bad result for any side in world cricket but the biggest disappointing was the way Bangladesh just displayed the white flag. Bangladesh batsmen wobbled against the Proteas whereas the home side scored plenty of runs on the same pitch. Bowlers were also frustrating, especially the pacers, as they did not make any impact throughout the series.
Looking back in 2017, it was a happening year for Bangladesh in Test cricket. Records galore and fighting attitude against New Zealand, victory against Sri Lanka at P Sara Oval and a home win against Australia were certainly steps in the right direction.
But when expectations grew ahead of the South Africa Tests, the Tigers collapsed.
So the Tigers still have a long way to go yet in Test cricket before they can establish themselves as a competitive outfit but surely, the experience gained from 2017 will certainly help Team Bangladesh in 2018 and the upcoming years.
Did you know?
All of Bangladesh’s nine Test matches this year produced results. The Tigers won twice and lost seven times as none of the Tests ended in a draw.
Bangladesh in Tests, 2017
Matches 9, Wins 2, Losses 7, Draws 0
Top-scorers (February 2017-January 2018)
766 runs (16 innings at an average of 54.71)
Shakib al Hasan
665 runs (14 innings at an average of 47.5)
537 runs (16 innings at an average of 33.56)
Shakib al Hasan
29 wickets (14 innings at an average of 33.37)
Mehedi Hasan Miraz
24 wickets (15 innings at an average of 54.08)
16 wickets (11 innings at an average of 36.37)