IN FOCUS – New Zealand in Bangladesh Test series 2013-14 : Preview

  The Test season in the sub-continent is set to begin with the New Zealanders’ tour of Bangladesh, consisting of two Tests. Both these teams, placed in the bottom three of the world rankings, will be looking to prove a point – the Black Caps are seeking a long overdue series win while the Tigers embark on yet another attempt to improve their dismal Test record.

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The Matches

  The series starts with the first Test from October 9-13 at the Zarur Ahmed Choudhary Stadium in Chittagong, followed by the second Test from October 21-25 at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka. New Zealand have played once each at these venues – both during their 2008-09 tour, winning at Chittagong and drawing at Dhaka. During their 2004-05 visit, they did play in these cities, albeit at the Chittagong Stadium and the Bangabandhu National Stadium respectively.

Head To Head and Recent Record

  Bangladesh and New Zealand have played each other in 9 Tests since 2001-02, with the latter winning 8 (5 of them by an innings) and the remaining game being a draw. In Bangladesh, the record reads three New Zealand wins and a draw from four Tests. The most recent encounter between the two sides was a one-off Test at Hamilton in 2009-10, which New Zealand won by 121 runs. The last Test series played in Bangladesh was in 2008-09, when New Zealand took the two-Test series 1-0, winning a close first Test by 3 wickets. New Zealand’s 2010-11 tour consisted only of five one-day matches, which they lost 4-0.

Form Book and Ranking

  As mentioned earlier, both the teams are currently placed in the bottom three of the ten-team Test Championship rankings. Brendon McCullum-led New Zealand are 8th with 79 rating points while Bangladesh, under Mushfiqur Rahim, are 10th with just 10 rating points. New Zealand showed a lot of promise by holding England to a 0-0 draw in the three-Test home series late last season, but this performance was sandwiched between two overseas failures – identical 2-0 sweep defeats in South Africa and in England this summer, though their bowlers impressed in the Lord’s Test. Their last sub-continental sojourn came last season, when they commendably drew the two-Test series in Sri Lanka 1-1. Incidentally, the Black Caps’ last victory in a series of at least two Tests was the 2008-09 success in Bangladesh. 

  Bangladesh’s recent Test form has been mixed – the Tigers amassed their highest Test total in the drawn Galle Test during their 0-1 defeat in the two-Test series in Sri Lanka late last season. However, they were found wanting in seam-friendly conditions at Harare in April, as Zimbabwe condemned them to a massive 335-run defeat. To their credit, they came back to win the second and final Test at the same venue by 143 runs to square the series, achieving only their 4th Test win in as many as 79 Tests. The last time they played at home was against the West Indies last season, with the visitors recording a 2-0 sweep. The fact that their only home Test win came back in 2004-05 against Zimbabwe does not speak well of a team that considers itself competitive in home conditions. 

Mushfiqur-Rahim-Bangladesh-2013_2913072   Bangladesh wicketkeeper-captain Mushfiqur Rahim’s leadership and batting will be crucial if the hosts are to upset the Black Caps apple-cart (source – skysports.com)

Players To Watch Out For

  The diminutive Bangladesh captain and wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim has developed into a mature middle-order batsman of late, providing much-needed support to Tamim Iqbal and Shakib al-Hasan, upon whom the burden of run-making usually lies. Rahim became the first Bangladeshi to score a double-hundred when he made 200 out of his team’s record total of 638 at Galle last season, averaging 82.33 in the series. In the series-levelling win in Zimbabwe, he scored 60 and 93. He will have a huge role to play – as captain, behind the wicket and in front of the wicket – if Bangladesh hope to score a maiden Test win over the Black Caps. 

kane-williamson_2866720   Kane Williamson will have an important role to play in Bangladesh with his batting in the middle-order as well as with his part-time off-spin (source – sportinglife.com)

  23 year-old Kane Williamson has been a key part of New Zealand’s batting line-up since he made a hundred on debut against India in 2010-11, and has shown the required  temperament to bat at the highest level. He likes to play in Asia, as he proved with a vital 135 in New Zealand’s rare win at Colombo last season. He is better than his average of 31.47 suggests, and the tour of Bangladesh will provide him an ideal opportunity to underline his worth to the Test side. His canny off-breaks will also be a factor in the likely spin-friendly conditions and he can be expected to bowl regularly, since Daniel Vettori is absent and first-choice spinner Bruce Martin is not too experienced at Test level.  

Prediction

  Can the Tigers win a first-ever Test against the Black Caps? It can be said that though it is not impossible, the difference between the pace bowling stocks of the two teams tilts the balance towards New Zealand. At the most, the hosts can snatch a draw, as rain is quite likely to come in the picture. In the final analysis, in spite of their ODI reversal three years back and their only warm-up being washed out, a 1-0 victory for New Zealand. 

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