Rain brought day two to an early end after three wickets in two overs from Shakib Al Hasan had left the second Test delicately poised. Replying to Bangladesh’s 289, New Zealand had slid from 252 for 4 to 260 for 7 when bad weather arrived some 20 minutes from scheduled close of play, ending a seesawing day in which New Zealand had routinely held the upper hand only for quick losses of wickets to stall their progress.
First, New Zealand had capitalised on two dropped catches and moved to 46 for no loss before Kamrul Islam Rabbi pegged them back with two wickets in three balls. Then a 106-run third-wicket partnership between Tom Latham and Ross Taylor, which rattled along at 4.41 per over, put Bangladesh on the back foot only for both to fall, against the run of play, in the space of 8.5 overs. Shakib’s triple-strike came after another meaty partnership – 75 for the fifth wicket between Henry Nicholls and Mitchell Santner. Nicholls was batting on 56 at stumps, with New Zealand seven down and trailing by 29 runs.
Shakib, Bangladesh’s most experienced bowler, had only been used for four overs when he came back into the attack to start the 67th of New Zealand’s innings. His under-utilisation may have had something to do with the fact that left-handers comprised four of New Zealand’s top six, but if that was the case, it reflected one-track thinking from their captain Tamim Iqbal, for within four balls of his new spell, Shakib had sent back a stodgy left-hander.
Playing for turn, Santner went on the back foot to work Shakib, bowling from left-arm over, into the leg side. The lack of turn, however, left him in a fully open position and he ended up playing across the line and missing by a long way. The ball hit his back pad in front of middle stump. Reviewing Paul Reiffel’s out decision, Santner had to walk back without technology either upholding or rejecting it, as ball-tracking failed to materialise. Umpire’s call seemed the likely outcome, with the ball looking like it may have gone on to clip leg stump. New Zealand got their review back, but not their No. 6.
Bowling with a low arm from around the wicket and getting the ball to skid on towards the stumps, Shakib gobbled up BJ Watling and Colin de Grandhomme in his next over. Both played for the turn, and both were bowled playing unneccessarily aggressive shots. Watling chopped on an attempted cut, de Grandhomme played a loose drive, leaving a massive gap for the ball to sneak through.
If the scorecard at stumps was an indictment of New Zealand’s batsmen for frittering away their starts, it also flattered Bangladesh’s bowlers, who were frustratingly inconsistent for most of the day. They began excellently in the first session, lost their discipline in the second, and seemed to be letting the game drift in the third before Shakib intervened.
Taskin Ahmed bowled an excellent new-ball spell in the morning, beating the outside edge four times in his first three overs, and finding Jeet Raval’s edge in his sixth, only for Sabbir Rahman, moving to his right from second slip, to grass a knee-high catch. Taskin troubled the two left-handed openers so frequently because of his line, which didn’t allow the comfortable leave despite his angle across them, his length, which was usually on the fuller side of a good length, and every now and again a bit of seam movement towards the slips. His desire to bowl full meant he overpitched on a few occasions – Latham in particular capitalised with three splendid, full-faced drives to the straight boundary – but that did not cause him to pull his length back at any point.
Mehedi Hasan opened the bowling with Taskin, extracted bounce with the new ball, and created a chance in his first over, provoking a drive away from the body from Raval that resulted in a low chance that Mahmudullah, rising too quickly at second slip, shelled.
Raval didn’t capitalise on his two lives. The opening partnership had stretched to 46 before Kamrul, coming on as second change, broke through in the 15th over, his first. Trying to pull one that was perhaps not short enough for it, Raval was cramped for room and only managed a bottom-edge into the stumps.
Then, two balls later, New Zealand were two down. Kane Williamson may be among the hardest players in the world to dismiss, but even he could do little when confronted with the perfect late outswinger – full enough to draw him forward but not so full that he could get close to the pitch of it, its initial line close enough to off stump to force him to play, and its movement late enough to prevent him from adjusting and withdrawing his bat. Wicketkeeper Nurul Islam tumbled to his right to take his first catch in Test cricket.
Latham batted serenely through the first session, never following the ball with his hands even when he was beaten, and had only one real moment of discomfort, when the slingy Rubel Hossain bowled a bouncer that didn’t rise as much as expected. Latham was unable to sway away in time, and the ball crunched into his helmet grille and sent the protective attachment at the back of his neck flying.
By lunch, Latham and Taylor had added 23, and had seen out some tight bowling from Bangladesh’s quicks. Their discipline suffered after the break, though, and boundary balls grew frequent. Taylor, who has looked in excellent touch since the series against Pakistan – thanks in part to adopting a consciously side-on approach, with front shoulder pointing down the pitch rather than opening out to mid-on – drove fluently through the covers in addition to showing off his usual strengths of cutting and working the ball off his legs, while Latham pulled and straight-drove with authority.
The first 13 overs of the post-lunch session brought 83 runs at 6.38, including nine fours and two sixes, and New Zealand seemed to be running away with the game, when Bangladesh profited from a loss of concentration from Latham on 68. Looking to cut one that wasn’t quite wide enough for the shot, he top-edged Taskin Ahmed in the first over after drinks.
Taylor could have followed him seven overs later, when he misread the flight of an offbreak from Mehedi Hasan Miraz and whipped it in the air to deep square leg, only for Kamrul, diving forward, to drop the low chance. He was on 75 at that point, had already brought up one landmark – becoming the third New Zealander to pass 6000 Test runs – and seemed set to bring up another and equal the late Martin Crowe, his mentor, on 17 Test hundreds. But that wasn’t to be; he had added only two runs to his score when he drove too early at Mehedi in his next over and spooned a catch to short midwicket.