A subcontinent team winning a Test in New Zealand is always a matter of pride. So every cricket-lover in Asia should salute the Bangladesh Tigers for lancing down the Kiwis in the first Test at Mount Maunganui.
New Zealand may not be the last frontier in cricket, but the conditions are very demanding. Very testing, especially for teams from the Indian subcontinent. The biting cold can be disconcerting for players used to the warmer climes who have to pull on more than a sweater to keep out the chill. Fielders swaddled in sweaters find their movements restricted, and have to keep their palms in pockets to keep them warm. And slip catches in cold weather hurt.
The weather is not just an inconvenience; it can affect play. It helps the ball move around so much that even dibbly-dobblers can claim wickets. Remember the success of Jeremy Coney, Nathan Astle, Chris Harris and Gavin Larsen. These days Colin de Grandhomme plies the same stuff.
Imagine batting when the chilly winds lash your body, and the ball seams and swings spitefully. Edges fly, and batsmen get caught more often in the slips. Scoring is difficult. But the grounds are small, so small that even mishits go for sixes.
What about the spinners? The slick pitches don’t offer assistance, so they have to resort to variations in flight, length and direction to trick the batsmen into mistakes. It takes spinners a high degree of skill to claim wickets in New Zealand. And Bangladesh did, through off-spinner Mehidy Hasan Miraz and left-armer Mominul Haque.
How the Test was won
The conditions make the Kiwis formidable opponents at home. Little wonder they remained beaten in 17 games. Now they have a strong team as well. Strong enough to win the World Test Championship. An injured Kane Williamson didn’t play in the Mount Maunganui Test, but he has played a strong hand in New Zealand’s rise to the top.
Bangladesh, fortunately, didn’t have to battle the elements. For, it’s summer in the southern hemisphere now, and the sweaters can remain in the dressing room. Yet, a Test series in New Zealand is never easy.
The win at Mount Maunganui is undoubtedly a salve to Bangladesh, who have suffered severe battering in the recent past. The T20 World Cup in the UAE was a disaster, and Pakistan handed them a drubbing at home. They arrived in New Zealand low on confidence and without star players Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal, who are injured.
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None of that reflected in the performance at the Bay Oval. The Tigers held the upper hand throughout the Test, and when New Zealand looked like pulling away in the second innings, fast bowler Ebadot Hossain’s three-wicket burst in seven balls turned the tide in Bangladesh’s favour.
Hossain’s second-innings haul of 6-46 decided the fate of the match, after Bangladesh batsmen, especially Mahmudul Hasan Joy, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Mominul Haque and Litton Das, helped post a good first innings score. It was indeed a total team effort.
That makes Bangladesh’s first win over New Zealand all the more creditable. It’s a win that snapped the Kiwis’ unbeaten run at home. A win over the world champions is always special. That’s something to savour for a very long time.
Take a bow, Bangladesh.