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QANTAS TOUR OF BANGLADESH 2017

Downpours, dust-ups and Dizzy's double: Pt II

13 August 2017

Jason Gillespie celebrates his double ton in 2006 // Getty Images

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The conclusion of our two-part series on the 2006 Chittagong Test, which will forever be associated with Jason Gillespie and his 'fairy tale' innings

About the Writer:
 @ARamseyCricket

Andrew Ramsey is the senior writer for cricket.com.au. He previously wrote for the Guardian, The Australian, The Times, The Telegraph, The Hindu and Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and the author of The Wrong Line.

Read Part I of 'Downpours, dust-ups and Dizzy's double'

Jason Gillespie began his first and final stint as a Test match number three under dense pre-monsoonal clouds that hung heavy over the Bangladeshi port city of Chittagong, but with a warm inner glow about his admittedly sparse batting credentials.

He had batted in union with his captain Ricky Ponting as they chased down the final 30 runs to victory in the series' first Test at Dhaka a week earlier, and had scored the winning boundary that afternoon with a crisply hit cut shot that flew from his brand new bat.

He was similarly unfussed in doing his job that first evening in Chittagong, placing his angular frame and dead straight bat in the way of all 27 deliveries he faced and collecting five runs – including an ominously well-timed punch to the cover fence - along the way.

He set off in the same mode next morning, the loss of Australia’s other opener Phil Jaques in the first hour bringing Ponting to the wicket, as Gillespie ventured a couple of off-side drives to add to his offensive repertoire (the cut and the nudge) as the wind picked up and lightning closed in.

The storm that lashed the Divisional Stadium during lunch on the second afternoon bore even greater fury than the still absent local press corps, tearing name and number plates from the rudimentary scoreboard and scattering them on the terraces like spent betting slips on a pub-tab floor.

Scoreboard attendants pick up the pieces from a destructive storm // Getty
Scoreboard attendants pick up the pieces from a destructive storm // Getty

It also laid waste to bamboo scaffolds supporting the taut tents of coloured fabric that magically transformed bare concrete steps into 'premium seating', as well as all hope of play resuming later in the day – perhaps even the three days that remained.

But through sheer human endeavour and the vast available volume of that resource, the infrastructure was rebuilt overnight and calm – if not normality – returned for day three as Australia (still 47 runs in deficit) batted on.

Before play began on that third morning, Ponting advised Gillespie not to flippantly throw away his wicket because so flat was the pitch and so unthreatening was the local bowling that any batter – accredited or otherwise - who took time to acclimatise and remained patient could return a score.

Counsel he demonstrably regretted when, perhaps consumed by the novelty of a second Test half-century achieved in the over before, Gillespie defied his captain’s call for a single because he sensed he might be caught short at the bowler's end and thus remained anchored in his crease.

Which meant Ponting perished when a direct hit meant he couldn't turn, scamper back and recover his ground.

The displeasure he unleashed on his nightwatchman at failing his duty to selflessly protect the ordained batters continued long and loud as he stalked from the field, and it convinced Gillespie he would now be safer remaining in the middle with new partner Michael Hussey than returning to the sheds.

And so he stayed.

For a further 267 deliveries. 

An additional six hours, during which he passed 100 for the first time in his cricket life with a cover drive to the fence an over before the tea break that brought with it another epic downpour and the premature abandonment of the third afternoon with Australia now 167 in the ascendancy.

Another storm lashes the Chittagong Divisional Stadium // Getty
Another storm lashes the Chittagong Divisional Stadium // Getty

That, in turn, meant Gillespie’s credulity defying knock would stretch into a fourth day where – on 125 – he joined South Africa’s Mark Boucher (whose five Test centuries suggest genuine batting acumen) with the highest recorded Test score by a nightwatchman.

The all-but empty press box at the equally sparsely populated stadium would routinely heave with hilarity as Gillespie and Hussey then jockeyed run for run, boundary for boundary until Gillespie upped the stakes by clubbing the first six of the pair’s 250-plus stand.

Channelling the instinct of a batsman he never imagined himself to be by dropping to one knee and lifting debutant left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak back over his head and into what – on the first couple of days, at least – had been the crowd.

The blow prompted a resumption of the animated conversation that Hussey later revealed Gillespie had pursued throughout their partnership that ultimately ended on 320 when Hussey top-edged the sort of lofted shot Gillespie had earlier dropped beyond the fence, and was caught for 182.

By which time the nightwatchman had powered on to 174, motivated by his encyclopaedic memory of the batting feats of past and present greats that he would reel off to his bemused partner as he rolled on and on beyond their respective personal Test bests.

It was a dressing room routine that Gillespie and his great mate Glenn McGrath had earlier refined as they climbed the Test wicket-taking tallies.

Hussey and Gillespie celebrate their record partnership // Getty
Hussey and Gillespie celebrate their record partnership // Getty

Nonchalantly asking nearby teammates what they knew of legends the likes of Thomson, McDermott, Lindwall and Benaud before adding pointedly "oh, I just went past him" when pressed to explain the rationale for the query.

Suddenly, Gillespie was roll-calling high scores he had no right nor reason to have memorised – McGrath's Test best 61, selector Merv Hughes's 72 and Shane Warne's comically tragic 99 gaining special attention as he and Hussey chatted between overs in the stifling Chittagong humidity.

"He knew every former Australian Test player’s highest score and checked them off along the way," Hussey regaled after Ponting eventually halted the frivolity upon Gillespie tickling Mohammad Rafique to the fine leg boundary to reach 201 and batting immortality.

"When he went past Mark Waugh (153) he told me that, and when he went past Michael Clarke (then a personal best of 151) he told me that. Then he went past Steve Waugh and Boony (David Boon – both an even 200)."

Exiting the field to laughter and acclaim in equal parts, Gillespie reckons he turned to his batting partner Clarke – fresh back in the XI after also being dropped, and far from an established Test player – and sagely advised "son, that’s how you score a Test double ton".

Clarke duly went on to post three Test double-centuries and a triple-hundred having observed the master at work.

Clarke clearly heeded the wise word of his senior teammate // Getty
Clarke clearly heeded the wise word of his senior teammate // Getty

The Test and the series ended in fittingly eerie circumstances at a virtually deserted stadium early on the fifth afternoon.

A snap strike across Chittagong’s militantly volatile workforce meant the city's streets were deemed unsafe for all commuters unless – like the cricket teams and match officials – they were accompanied on the road by armed escorts.

The risk of regular traffic being stopped and rocks hurled at drivers and passengers seen to be subverting the strike action meant that spectators followed the earlier behest of the Bangladesh media and stayed away from the cricket.

Members of the international press were the only impartial witnesses to the denouement of a most extraordinary event, although their attendance was in doubt when authorities from the Bangladesh Cricket Board ruled it was too dangerous to organise any form of transport to the stadium.

But they arrived resourcefully in time to document Australia’s win by an innings and 80 runs, and to attend Gillespie’s farewell media conference during which he seemed at a greater loss to explain his crowning glory than those who had watched it, unbelievingly, from a distance.

"It’s a fairy tale really - Hansel and Gretel and Dizzy's double-hundred are one and the same," he beamed, granted the political indulgence to refer to himself in the third person given the circumstances.

"We (he and Hussey) were asked when the boys were bringing out drinks what the wicket was like.

"So we were saying there was a lot of turn and bounce and there was a lot of reverse swing, and you had to be a pretty good player to make runs out there.

Gillespie opens up on the off side // Getty
Gillespie opens up on the off side // Getty

"But no, it was pretty flat. I mean, I made 200 – that puts it in context."

The mid-pitch jousting was but a foretaste of the fun Gillespie – renowned in the Australia dressing room as either a ceaseless prankster or a serial pest depending on the targets of his humour – was to wield in the aftermath of the Test, and across the decade since.

The man who used to delight in scrawling his signature on pristine apparel that arrived for his teammates – Ponting recalls more than once calling for fresh gloves during an innings only to fit the as-yet-unused items and see Gillespie's moniker staring back in black felt pen – took to appending his standard autograph with '201'.

The Australia players, conscious the Bangladesh campaign represented a watershed for touring Test teams that would never again feature the names Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist, Langer, Kasprowicz, Martyn or Gillespie, celebrated their upcoming break on the rooftop of their Chittagong Hotel at Test's end.

While serving of alcohol in the Islamic nation was forbidden, the slabs of sponsor's product discreetly wrapped in plain brown paper that had been conspiratorially packed as part of the team's kit found their way into ice-filled eskies usually reserved for the boundary-side supply of bowlers' energy drinks.

All but Brett Lee, one of several hotel guests to have pleaded successfully for a foam mattress to supplement the chapatti-thin coconut fibre mat on each bed and who had therefore retired for a 24-hour sleep, chatted, laughed and sang along to Warne's music player into the wee hours.

But Gillespie, who was leaving the next morning to begin what would become a hugely successful liaison with English county Yorkshire, watched it all unfold from a plastic chair claiming that nine and a half hours hunched over a bat had left his back in far worse shape than the 43 overs he had delivered across four innings on dead, flat pitches.

His combative spirit, however, remained unbowed.

The man-of-the-series enjoys his moment // Getty
The man-of-the-series enjoys his moment // Getty

Teammates (except for Hayden, Ponting and Gilchrist who also had Test double-hundreds to their credit) would cop a casual inquiry as they passed Gillespie along the lines of "so how do you approach an innings when you get close to 200?".

Which would be followed by the immediate rhetorical rejoinder as they hurried away "oh that’s right, you never have".

Those who have endured Gillespie's good-natured but insistent reminders of his historic day(s) at Chittagong ever since take solace in pointing to the enduring act of revenge they were able to perpetrate as they played out.

Prior to his beginning an unprecedented final Test innings, unidentified figures within the dressing room had got hold of his treasured new bat and drawn – in the same sort of black felt pen that Gillespie used to deface countless other bits of kit – a rough circle around the 'cherry' he so proudly sported as evidence of the winning runs belted in Dhaka.

Which meant every photograph and video that remains of him defending stoically, of striking his 26 boundaries and two sixes, of acknowledging his third Test 50, and of celebrating his maiden first-class century, his record-setting (for a nightwatchman) 126 and his belief defying 200 all reveal a bat with a mysterious ebony circle emblazoned on its blade.

A hieroglyphic that is not only emblematic of a Test match that will raise questions and eyebrows from those who stumble across its incomprehensible scorecard, but also marks an indelible pivot point on which the future and fraternity of Australia’s Test teams were to poignantly shift.

This story was first published in April last year on the tenth anniversary of 2006 Chittagong Test. Read Part I here

Australia in Bangladesh 2017

Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Hilton Cartwright, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade.

Bangladesh squad (preliminary): Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Soumya Sarkar, Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan, Sabbir Rahman, Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, Mahmudullah Riyad, Liton Kumar Das, Mominul Haque, Mehedi Hasan, Taijul Islam, Mustafizur Rahman, Taskin Ahmed, Subhashish Roy, Kamrul Islam Rabbi, Rubel Hossain, Nurul Hasan, Sanjamul Islam, Mosaddek Hossain Saikat, Mohammad Saifuddin, Anamul Haque, Abul Hasan Raju, Al Amin Hossain, Nasir Hossain, Muktar Ali, Tanbir Haider, Saqlain Sajib, Shafiul Islam.


11-17 August Australia pre-tour training camp, Darwin


18 August Australia arrive


22-23 August Tour match,Fatullah


27-31 August First Test, Dhaka


4-8 September Second Test, Chittagong




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