If greatness is the final destination then Shakib Al Hasan took a long stride towards that after his fabulous all-round performance gave the Tigers a historic maiden Test win against Australia at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur yesterday.
If transforming despair into hope is an essential proponent of greatness then the 30-year old ace all-rounder -- who has emerged as one of cricket's top commodities from the sleepy town of Magura -- did exactly that on an absorbing fourth day against the 'never-say-die' Aussies as the Tigers posted a 20-run victory and took a 1-0 lead in a series where they had mostly garnered attention for the pre-series buzz over a possible 2-0 sweep.
His 84 runs in the first innings and match haul of 10 wickets are definitely gigantic numbers, but his impact on the match beyond numbers can be depicted by a simple anecdote from the last moments of the match, when he advised Taijul Islam to bowl around the wicket instead of over the wicket to change the length of the ball and shape it into the left-hander.
Taijul did exactly that and was rewarded with the final wicket of Australia's second innings, dismissing Josh Hazlewood and simultaneously discarding the lower-order efforts of Pat Cummins, who was stranded on an unbeaten 33.
The great triumph was orchestrated by the great contributions from two of Bangladesh's biggest stalwarts -- Shakib and Tamim Iqbal, who could not have celebrated their 50 Test in better fashion -- with young off-spinner Mehedi Hasan and Taijul offering significant input as Australia were lured into a spin web.
Yet, it was Shakib who took centre stage by wrapping up the drama with such aplomb that the world's cricket fraternity is bound to conclude that wins against England at home, against Sri Lanka in the Island, and the latest against Australia have provided strong statements of the materialization of a good, exciting Test team.
Bangladesh's tight grip loosened suddenly in the late hours of the third day after complete domination over the prior two and the anxiety only mounted on the morning of the fourth day as two of Australia's best batsmen, David Warner and Steve Smith, resumed their innings at 109 for two in chase of 265 and gained a stranglehold, with the former completing his 19th Test century in the first session.
However, one man was on the spot, bowling in the right channels on a pitch that was offering turn and variable bounce, knowing that one success could change the game's complexion and that the only requirement was patience. He kept at it and drama unfolded in the 12th over of the day just before the first drink's break.
The racous crowd erupted with joy when Warner, who hit 16 fours and one six during his sublime 112-run knock, was trapped leg before while attempting to pull Shakib. It came as a tonic, suddenly changing the body language of the whole team. And when Shakib struck again after three overs to remove the other dangerman, Smith, for 37, the writing was all but on the wall as Australia still needed 94 runs with six wickets in hand.
After arguably starting the day ahead, Australia limped to lunch at 199 for seven.
Bangladesh's catching has not always been sharp, as evidenced by Tamim dropping Smith during a crucial conjuncture on the fourth day, but a culprit from the day before, Soumya Sarkar -- who had dropped Warner when he was on 14 -- took a brilliant catch at first slip, somehow getting his hands to the flying ball and ending Peter Handscomb's innings on 15 after the batsman tried to cut a Taijul delivery.
An uncomfortable Matthew Wade was lbw playing back to Shakib for 4 and Ashton Agar nudged a return catch to Taijul for 2 as the visitors succumbed to 195-7.
The dashing Glen Maxwell remained the sole threat, but he was bowled in the first over after lunch while attempting to cut Shakib off a ball that stayed low, giving the left-hander his second five-for of the match.
Cummins and Nathan Lyon needed to score 66 runs to bail Australia out, but their 29-run partnership was broken by a shrewd move from Bangladesh skipper Mushfiqur Rahim, as Mehedi Hasan removed Lyon for 12 in his first over since being reintroduced to the attack.
The last two batsmen required 37 and Cummins decided he had to start attacking, but patience and a few tricks saw the home side overcome any threat.
Shakib, with his outstanding performance, added a few more records to his name. He is only the second cricketer to score a half-century and take ten wickets in a match more than once, joining an elite club where the only other member is New Zealand great Sir Richard Hadlee, who had done so thrice. Shakib also became the sixth cricketer to achieve this double against Australia. He also became just the fifth cricketer to have taken a 10-wicket haul in their 50th Test, while also collecting his third man-of-the-match award, the most for Bangladesh in Test wins.
Despite the accolades and adulation, in the end the most satisfying fact for him and his team is that Bangladesh proved that their 2-0 threat was not a mind-game nor a hypothesis, but something that could prove to be a reality after the conclusion of the second Test in Chittagong that starts on September 4.