It may not seem so but New Zealand have a fight on their hands on Boxing Day. In their corner is a very healthy record at home – 21 wins out of 27 matches over the last two years. But against them stands a Bangladesh side which had whitewashed them the last time they met in a bilateral series in 2013. This time the visitors are armed with Mustafizur Rahman, who was named ICC’s Emerging Player of the Year.
On the only occasion he bowled against New Zealand, in the World T20 in March, Mustafizur took a five-wicket haul. Bangladesh have had to make do without him for nine months and would welcome his return, although they would be wary of overworking him. Mustafizur had to undergo surgery to his left shoulder in July and was yet to test his bowling and throwing arm in international cricket.
New Zealand should enjoy being back in their own conditions, for on tour they lost to India 2-3 and were then blanked out 3-0 by Australia. They’ve made a few changes as well and, with the returns of Luke Ronchi and Neil Broom – who hasn’t played ODI cricket since 2010 – to complement the mainstays Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson, their aim might be to bat Bangladesh out of the game.
Not that their bowlers are slouches. Trent Boult and Tim Southee are two of the finest quicks in the world, although both are set to be rested later in the tour. Lockie Ferguson and Colin de Grandhomme serve as supporting seamers while Mitchell Santner is the lone spinner, tasked with keeping things tight.
Given their tendency to play spin well, a lot of Bangladesh’s focus would be on the hosts’ four pacers. So it should help that an opening batsman is in top form. Tamim Iqbal has scored over 1000 in the last two years in ODI cricket, averaging 47 with three centuries and six fifties, and if he established dominance early, not many attacks can cope. There may be a shake-up in the middle order, though. Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim could be pushed up to tackle the extra pace and movement in Christchurch, while youngster Mosaddek Hossain may be squeezed between Sabbir Rahman and Shakib Al Hasan to look for late runs.