"Pretty surreal, pretty bizarre"

The cricket itself was rarely as riveting as the first Test, where Bangladesh had competed on level terms. After forcing Australia into a three-wicket win that wasn't entirely convincing, much was expected of the home side, but things came unstuck on the first day.

This was a 31st birthday like no other. There was little in Jason Gillespie's past with the bat to suggest something of this magnitude. He had on occasion displayed a stride as large as his heart, and a facility for blocking that could frustrate the best. India's bowlers would know, having struggled in vain to get past his bat during the 2004 Test in Chennai, where he and Damien Martyn hung on to deny the home side.

But, scoring runs requires a different set of skills from merely existing at the crease. Gillespie's comical impersonation of riding horseback on his bat after his maiden Test half-century showed what he thought of his run-making abilities. So, when Dizzy took a bow on the fourth day of the second Test against Bangladesh after a tickle to fine-leg, and shook his head in disbelief, his mates in the dressing room were doing much the same: attempting to process what Jason Gillespie's double century meant.

"I never expected it in my wildest dreams ... so it's pretty surreal, pretty bizarre actually," said Gillespie, who surely has done enough to reclaim the place he lost after an indifferent Ashes series. "Nothing has really changed. I suppose it will sink in over the next couple of days, but I can't believe I'm talking about my batting."

The unbeaten 201 (425b, 26x4, 2x6) — the highest score by a night-watchman beating Tony Mann's 105 against India in Perth in 1977-78 — ensures the rangy South Australian has bragging rights in batting conversations with either of the Waughs, David Boon and Ian Chappell, having topped their highest scores!

The innings also took the focus off a career-best 182 from Michael Hussey and Phil Jacques, who scored his maiden Test fifty in his second Test. Hussey, during the course of the knock in his 11th Test, went to 1000 Test runs quicker than any Australian bar Sir Don Bradman, Neil Harvey and Mark Taylor.

The Test in Chittagong was full of incidents — not all played out on the cricket field — though Gillespie's inconceivable effort overshadowed much of the action. The local print media boycotted it after policemen had beaten up journalists in a shameful fracas. Thus, Bangladesh's newspapers carried neither reports nor photographs of the cricket that unfolded.

Australian skipper Ricky Ponting was fined 25 per cent of his match fee for dissent in an embarrassing turn of events. A decision regarding Bangladesh batsman Aftab Ahmed was referred to the third umpire Muhbubur Rahman who returned a `not out' verdict. After Ponting spoke to umpires Ian Howell and Aleem Dar, Rahman was re-consulted and Aftab was given out. Match Referee Jeff Crowe, who decided Ponting's punishment, told reporters that the mix-up was because of Rahman's limited knowledge of English.

The cricket itself was rarely as riveting as the first Test, where Bangladesh had competed on level terms. After forcing Australia into a three-wicket win that wasn't entirely convincing, much was expected of the home side, but things came unstuck on the first day. The Tigers were rolled over in 61.2 overs, with only Rajen Saleh managing a 126-ball 71 with nine fours. The dismissals of captain Habibul Bashar in the first innings and the talented Mohammad Ashraful in the second illustrated the lack of application of Bangladesh's batsmen.

Bashar, having sliced two fours past point, failed to temper himself when Ponting reinforced that region with an extra man. A thoughtless carve that contributed to the collapse followed. Ashraful's indiscretion was just as bad. Having got his eye in, he proceeded to try and sweep Shane Warne only to be bowled around his legs. This when Bangladesh needed him to spend time in the middle.

Mohammad Rafique's lusty hitting at the end where he helped himself to three sixes each off Warne and MacGill came too late to impact the outcome, but in his bottom-hand-generated bat speed and in No. 11 Shahadat Hossain's refreshing application, Bangladesh took some positives from the game.

Probably the biggest gain for a side taken to the cleaners by a tailender was left-handed opener Shahriyar Nafees. He made 79 to end as the highest scorer of the series (he admittedly had more innings) over leading lights such as Hayden, Ponting, and Hussey. For Australia, spin twins Warne and MacGill took 15 of the 20 wickets between them; the former bowled a superb spell in the second innings where he befuddled the bastmen with variations in pace and angle, and nuances in turn, but even he — the superstar that he is — had to cede primacy to Gillespie, who joined Wasim Akram as the only men with over 250 wickets and a double hundred.

THE SCOREBOARD

Second Test, Bangladesh v Australia, Chittagong, April 16-20, 2006. Australia won by an innings and 80 runs.

Bangladesh — 1st innings: J. Omar lbw b Gillespie 2; S. Nafees c Lee b Gillespie 0; H. Bashar c Jaques b Gillespie 9; R. Saleh b MacGill 71; M. Ashraful c Hayden b Warne 6; A. Ahmed c Gilchrist b Warne 18; K. Mashud (not out) 34; M. Rafique c Hayden b MacGill 19; M. Mortaza c Gilchrist b Cullen 4; A. Razzak c Lee b MacGill 15; S. Hossain c Gillespie b Warne 0; Extras (lb-10, w-3, nb-6) 19. Total: 197.

Fall of wkts: 1-0, 2-11, 3-17, 4-41, 5-102, 6-130, 7-152, 8-157, 9-193.

Australia bowling: Lee 9-2-36-0; Gillespie 5-2-11-3; Warne 18.2-3-47-3; MacGill 22-4-68-3; Cullen 7-0-25-1.

Australia — 1st innings: M. Hayden c (sub) b Rafique 29; P. Jaques c Nafees b Rafique 66; J. Gillespie (not out) 201; R. Ponting (run out) 52; M. Hussey c Hossain b Ahmed 182; M. Clarke (not out) 23; Extras (b-10, lb-10, w-5, nb-3) 28. Total (for four wkts., decl.) 581.

Fall of wkts: 1-67, 2-120, 3-210, 4-530.

Bangladesh bowling: Mortaza 26-3-114-0; Hossain 33-3-143-0; Rafique 48.3-11-145-2; Razzak 30-5-99-0; Saleh 8-0-32-0; Ahmed 7-1-28-1.

Bangladesh — 2nd innings: J. Omar lbw b Lee 19; S. Nafees c Gilchrist b Warne 79; H. Bashar c Hayden b Warne 49; R. Saleh c Ponting b Warne 5; M. Ashraful b Warne 29; A. Ahmed c Gilchrist b MacGill 18; K. Mashud lbw b MacGill 11; M. Rafique c Warne b MacGill 65; M. Mortaza c Gillespie b Warne 1; A. Razzak c Ponting b MacGill 0; S. Hossain (not out) 3; Extras (b-7, lb-11, w-2, nb-5) 25. Total: 304.

Fall of wkts: 1-25, 2-127, 3-137, 4-187, 5-201, 6-229, 7-230, 8-233, 9-235.

Australia bowling: Lee 11-3-35-1; J. Gillespie 4-0-14-0; S. Warne 36-4-113-5; MacGill 22.2-3-95-4; Cullen 7-0-29-0.

A Special Correspondent