Bangladesh understood that they have the personnel to hold steady in seamer-friendly conditions over the course of a rain-affected day in Wellington. As far as surprises go that was rather pleasant; not unlike finding money in the couch cushions.
Tamim Iqbal was carving boundaries at will and throwing bowlers off their rhythm. So dominant was he that at one point all but four runs of the total were made by him; and by then he was past fifty. Mominul Haque was subtler; so much that the runs he scored were an afterthought. Only, before anyone knew it, he was on 64 not out, his team was 154 for 3, and it took the light fading to finally drag him off his beloved batting crease. Nearly fifty overs were lost in total to bad weather and in an effort to make up for them, the umpires ruled that play would start half an hour early on Friday.
If the strokeplay was eye-catching, then the northerly wind was a full-blown diva. It hit speeds of 150 kph, swindled an umpire’s hat, made the groundstaff fly let alone the covers, and forced the cameramen off the Southern stand, which was basically scaffolding. For a good part of the final two sessions, the cricket was broadcast the old way, from behind the batsman at one end. It seemed to enhance Mominul’s appeal as he showcased stout defence and good judgment outside off.
4 Number of fifty plus scores for Tamim Iqbal from six innings. He averages 51 in New Zealand.
85 Runs added by Mominul Haque and Mahmudullah for the third wicket. It was the third highest partnership for any wicket for Bangladesh in New Zealand.
2 Number of hundreds for Mominul Haque against NZ. He has scores of 181, 22* ,47 & 126* and averaged 188 against them before today’s match.
In the lead up to this Test, the popular opinion was Bangladesh would be caught off guard. It gained steam after Kane Williamson invited them to bat on a pitch that retained flecks of green. Imrul Kayes didn’t help matters when he top-edged a hook and was caught at long leg in the fourth over. It was a particularly irksome dismissal, especially for an opener, in conditions where the short ball posed a lot less threat than the full one.
Of course, Mahmudullah might have reasons to disagree with that assessment, considering he was hit in the box by a back of a length delivery soon after coming in to bat. He was then struck on the right hand by a throw from Neil Wagner running to his left from midwicket and made to look like his hands and legs being pulled in opposite directions when facing New Zealand’s two left-arm quicks. With time he learnt not to get so squared up and even crunched three sweet hits to the point boundary but just as he was looking dangerous, he chased a wide delivery from Wagner and the outside edge was smartly taken by BJ Watling diving to his right.
Nevertheless Bangladesh made their highest total at the Basin Reserve when they passed 143; they had found 106 of those runs in fours and sixes. Few things could better represent New Zealand’s ill-discipline. Trent Boult ping-ponged from iffy to irresistible. He was hit for six fours in 17 balls by Tamim, at which point Williamson had no choice but to take his premier fast bowler out of the attack after only three overs. It’s all very well having the wind at your back, but when it clocks in faster than your deliveries, you have a problem.
Boult redeemed himself by having Tamim lbw with his second ball after the early lunch, pitching it on an in-between length, making it seam in off the deck and catching the batsman on the move. New Zealand had already used one of their reviews when allrounder Colin de Grandhomme had an lbw struck down in the 11th over, but Williamson tried again and this time umpire Marais Erasmus’ on-field call of not out was overruled.
Tim Southee was a bit more dependable. He assessed that as abundant as the cloud cover was in the morning, the breeze was too savage to encourage swing. The grass on the pitch however, lent itself to helping the ball move after pitching and Southee used to his advantage, occasionally even using cross-seamers to surprise batsmen.
But there weren’t enough times that pressure was forced upon Bangladesh from both ends. A run-rate of 3.81 indicated the Wellington pitch was truer than most thought, but it also pointed the finger on Boult and company for their inability to maintain a length that demanded the batsman come forward.
Bangladesh should be wary if they do find it. They were playing an away Test for the first time in more than two years and, as the one-day series showed, they share an uncomfortably close relationship with batting collapses. Unless they get enough runs on the board, it would be too much to ask their inexperienced bowling attack to win them the match. Taskin Ahmed and Subashis Roy were making their debuts and Kamrul Islam Rabbi and Mehedi Hasan made their debuts only months ago. None of them have played any long-form cricket abroad.