Bangladesh beat Australia at cricket yesterday. There were those who assumed it would never be possible to write those words, others of more optimistic bent who thought they would have to wait at least 20 years.
To describe it as one of the biggest sporting upsets of all time may be an understatement. Australia are world No 1 by a country mile and Bangladesh are the lowest ranked by a similar margin. At the start, Australia were 500-1 on to win, Bangladesh were a somewhat ungenerous 33-1 with Coral. It was that predictable.
Yet by the time Aftab Ahmed smote Jason Gillespie for six off the first ball of the final over to level the scores in the second match of the NatWest Series it was a sensation but not a shock. So mature and controlled had the Bangladeshi exhibition been that they never seemed in the mood for a hard-luck story. They won with a scrambled single next ball. The margin was five wickets, there were four balls to spare. The Richter scale has not been made that can cope with such affairs.
In the old phrase they were heroes to a man but the one who stood above them was Mohammad Ashraful. He made 100 from 101 balls in a batting exhibition that was at once measured and exhilarating. He is already the youngest Test centurion of all, being the only player to reach three figures before his 17th birthday. This was a display to rank above that.
Two things stood out about Australia in the way they accepted their fate. When Ashraful was out with 23 still wanted, Adam Gilchrist shook his hand as he departed, a remarkable gesture in a tight match. When they had lost, their captain Ricky Ponting was calm but straight talking. "It was one of the biggest upsets in the history of the game," he said anticipating the public reaction at home. "We have got to be made aware of that and if it doesn't make us lift our game nothing will."
There was a whiff of arrogance in Australia's decision to bat first and of a lack of homework when they belatedly discovered that one-day results favoured the side batting second. Ponting said he did not expect the ball to do as much as it did - they were reduced to 9 for 2 before recovering to make 249 - but he sought no hiding place there either. Bangladesh bowled well, he said. "They controlled the game and when the world champions lose to the lowest ranked team in the world that's got to be worrying. We need to turn things round and we've no time to do it."
Australia did not do too many things wrong - though they dropped Ashraful on 54 - but Bangladesh did more things better. They had won only nine of their previous 107 one-day matches, the biggest until now against India last winter. But nobody was prepared for this. It was a result beyond the imagination. That Australia had omitted the all-rounder Andrew Symonds for disciplinary reasons only added to their concerns.
England's captain Michael Vaughan said he had nothing to say about the event, which presumably meant that he, like everyone else, was rendered speechless.