Bangladesh will look to the experienced trio of Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim to turn their fortunes around in their tour of New Zealand, when the teams meet in the first Test of the two-match series in Wellington on Thursday (January 12).
With the Basin Reserve surface offering pace and bounce on the opening day, Mushfiqur, Bangladesh’s Test captain, who missed the entire One-Day International and Twenty20 International series after picking up a hamstring injury in the opening ODI in Christchurch, has urged his batsmen to prove themselves in unfamiliar conditions, something they were unable to do in the limited-overs matches.
“Our main challenge will be for the batsmen to set up the Test match for the bowlers,” he said. “We have to put up a good enough total for the bowlers to defend.
“Some of them like Tamim, Shakib and Mahmudullah have done well in Tests here in the past, but now we need a collective effort from the batsmen, which we failed to do in the ODIs and T20s. We are capable so this is our opportunity to do it.”
Bangladesh were swept 3-0 in both ODIs and T20Is. This will be the 12th time the teams meet in the five-day game – a format where Bangladesh have never won against New Zealand. This will also be Bangladesh’s first overseas Test since September 2014.
But, despite the odds, Mushfiqur said that his team had the weaponry to produce their first Test win over New Zealand, if his bowlers could stick to their game plan. While they haven’t announced their playing XI, Taskin Ahmed could well make his Test debut on Thursday, with the impressive Mustafizur Rahman not being rushed into Test cricket after just returning from an injury.
“The pace bowlers have to take over the attacking role that the spinners have in home Tests,” said the skipper. “Bowlers do get excited by extra bounce, but the best ball here, like any other pitch, is one that targets the top of off stump.
“We have tried to pass on this message to our bowlers and also told them that even a top batsman needs one ball to get out.”
On the other hand, coming off back-to-back Test victories over Pakistan before Bangladesh came visiting, New Zealand will be looking for a clean sweep of the tourists.
The side will be boosted by the return of Ross Taylor, the experienced batsman, following eye surgery in late November and Trent Boult, the left-arm pacer, who missed the second Test against Pakistan because of a knee injury.
His captain would have been pleased to watch Boult bowling in excess of 145kph (90mph) in the final T20I in Mount Maunganui. “We know when he’s bowling fast and swinging it for a long time he’s one of the best bowlers in the world,” said Kane Williamson. “We’ll be hoping for more of that going into a lot of Test matches in the next wee while.”
Taylor, meanwhile, needs one more century to equal the national record 17 made by the late Martin Crowe, his mentor and close friend.
Although New Zealand start as favourites, Williamson was wary of underestimating the visitors, especially after watching England surrender in the second Test in Dhaka. “They’re an experienced side, have played all round the world. We know [they] will provide a stiff challenge so important [we] hit our straps early tomorrow,” he said.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Ross Taylor, Dean Brownlie, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling (wk).
Bangladesh: Mushfiqur Rahim (capt, wk), Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Mominul Haque, Sabbir Rahman, Mahmudullah, Shakib Al Hasan, Mehedi Hasan, Taijul Islam, Rubel Hossain, Kamrul Islam Rabbi, Soumya Sarkar, Taskin Ahmed, Nurul Hasan, Subashis Roy.