A three-nil loss in the ODI series, a mostly rained-out warm-up match, and a line-up that’s missing two of their senior cricketers — it has been a troublesome path to the first Test against New Zealand for Bangladesh. Besides, of late, the home side doesn’t lose a lot here in Hamilton. But then, going by the recent trend in Test cricket, New Zealand would be wary of the supposed underdogs. Despite everything, Bangladesh are technically in great Test form, having won their last three games, only the second time in their history that they have won three Tests in a row.
In those three Tests, Bangladesh’s spinners took 55 out of the 57 wickets that went to their bowlers, with six five-fors. In fact they didn’t pick a seamer in the last of those Tests, against West Indies in Dhaka, where Shakib Al Hasan, Mehidy Hasan, Taijul Islam and Nayeem Hasan ran through the visitors. Of course, that was all in favourable conditions. Their batting line-up, which looked so brittle in the ODI series, will be without the injured Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib, two of their most experienced middle-order batsmen. Tamim Iqbal and captain Mahmudullah will have to take up more responsibility as Bangladesh’s batting resources are stretched to the limit.
In the New Zealand camp, things seem smoother. They have a settled squad, with only left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel left out from their last Test against Sri Lanka. Legspinner Todd Astle is his replacement, but they will look to blast the visitors out with pace. Trent Boult and Tim Southee will lead an attack that consists of Neil Wagner and Colin de Grandhomme. Matt Henry too is another useful option, particularly having done well in the ODIs.
Tom Latham and Henry Nicholls are also in good Test form, having made big second-innings hundreds against Sri Lanka in December, and both have looked in good touch in the preceding ODIs too. They are part of a usually solid New Zealand top order, which will be handful for a newish Bangladesh pace attack that will rely heavily on Mustafizur Rahman.
Trent Boult took a nine-wicket match haul against Sri Lanka in New Zealand’s previous Test match. He didn’t let up in the limited-overs games since then either. It all adds up to a cause for worry for Bangladesh, who haven’t yet found a way to get past his first spell untouched. Mahmudullah is back at the scene of his maiden Test hundred, this time as captain. Although he wasn’t among the runs in the ODI series, Mahmudullah has had two Test hundreds in his last five innings.
Team news: The only change in the New Zealand line-up since their last Test, against Sri Lanka in December, is likely to be Todd Astle in place of Ajaz Patel. Bangladesh have a decent batting line-up to call upon despite going in without batting mainstays Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim. They are likely to go for a three-man pace attack, with Khaled Ahmed and Abu Jayed likely to accompany Mustafizur Rahman.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Jeet Raval, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 BJ Watling (wk), 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Toss Astle, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Neil Wagner, 11 Trent Boult
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Shadman Islam, 3 Mominul Haque, 4 Mohammad Mithun, 5 Mahmudullah (capt), 6 Liton Das (wk), 7 Soumya Sarkar, 8 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 9 Khaled Ahmed, 10 Abu Jayed, 11 Mustafizur Rahman.