London: As New Zealand and Bangladesh prepare to meet in the Cricket World Cup on Wednesday at the Oval, neither team will forget where they last crossed paths in Christchurch.
Bangladesh cut short a tour of New Zealand in March when most of the team and some staff heading to Friday prayers avoided, only by minutes, being in a mosque where a gunman killed 42 people out of 51 total fatalities. The team were traumatised by the brush with death, the third and final Test in Christchurch was cancelled, and Bangladesh flew home the next day.
Nine of the Test team in New Zealand that tragic day are in the World Cup squad in England.
To their credit, they have showed remarkable fortitude and determination by winning Bangladesh’s first multi-nation 50-over title in Ireland last month, then starting this World Cup by whipping South Africa by 21 runs on Sunday at the Oval.
Shakib Al Hassan and Mushfiqur Rahim, playing together for nearly two decades and for Bangladesh for 13 years, combined for the team’s best World Cup partnership of 142 in a national-record ODI total of 330. Spinners Shakib, Mehidy Hasan and part-timer Mosaddek Hossain then squeezed South Africa into submission.
The Oval looked and sounded like a home game for Bangladesh and the same is expected on Wednesday for the day-night match.
Captain Mashrafe Mortaza warned his side to remain grounded. “It’s very important for our players to stay calm,” Mashrafe said. “We have just won one match, there are eight more to go.
“We have to plan for our next match against New Zealand and make sure that we execute those plans. More challenges will come.”
But he was rapt with the way they played. Even though they were uneasy in English conditions, the players were aggressive from the start, taking on South Africa quicks Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada to give them an excellent platform.
“We love the way we played in this game,” Mashrafe said. “I’m sure that it won’t happen every day, but that is the idea.”
It makes for a compelling matchup, as New Zealand also made a statement in their opening game by thrashing Sri Lanka by 10 wickets with 203 balls to spare on Saturday.
And they did it without seamer Tim Southee, who injured his right calf in the nets, and as Trent Boult took only one wicket, in the second to last over. Instead, fast bowlers Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson took three wickets each just four days after the West Indies roughed them up for a combined 193 runs. But that run-out loosened them up.
New Zealand openers Martin Guptill and Colin Munro, in for the injured Henry Nicholls, knocked off the target of 137 in 16.1 overs and put up their best scores in months.
Captain Kane Williamson could look back on a tidy, drama-free, winning loosener by his side. Every bowler got a wicket, and there were seven catches by seven players, including Tom Latham behind the stumps after passing fitness on a broken finger.
The match was over so early that the bowlers were also still relatively fresh. Boult bowled nine overs, Henry seven, and Ferguson less than seven. They should be in for a fuller workout on Wednesday.
In the two matches at the Oval so far, the chasing team have failed.