The Black Caps will need history — and a miracle — to begin their World Test Championship campaign with a win.
After dismissing Bangladesh for 338 midway through day four, New Zealand were set a target of 332 for victory in Sylhet, which would represent their highest successful chase in tests.
After staggering to stumps on 113-7, it instead seemed inevitable they would slump to a second defeat by Bangladesh in three tests.
The last loss was a first, the tourists producing a stunning eight-wicket triumph in Mount Maunganui to record a maiden test win over New Zealand in their 16th clash.
That was a serious blow to the Black Caps’ chances of defending their World Test Championship crown — and if Bangladesh take the three wickets they require, this setback would hinder their chances of claiming it back.
Avoiding such a fate falls on the reliable shoulders of Daryl Mitchell (44no) — whose battling century wasn’t enough in last month’s ODI World Cup semifinal loss to India — and Ish Sodhi (7no).
That pair and the two bowlers to follow need another 219 runs, an unlikely number that would see New Zealand clear their current record chase of 324, achieved almost 30 years ago against Pakistan in Christchurch.
Their best effort overseas is the 317 they scored to beat Bangladesh in 2008 — their last test victory in a country that before this week they hadn’t visited for a decade.
If one were grasping optimistically at straws, this team can count on the experience of two survivors from that triumph, with Jacob Oram and Daniel Flynn part of the coaching staff on a temporary basis.
A more realistic assessment would view the carnage created by the Bangladeshi spinners and deem this one all but over.
The four-strong attack, who snared nine of 10 wickets in the first innings, applied a level of pressure on the tourists’ batters that proved too much to bear.
Having dismissed Bangladesh for 338, the hosts adding 126 to their overnight score, the Black Caps’ chase began with Tom Latham edging behind off Shoriful Islam for a six-ball duck, continuing a poor couple of months. Much worse was to come.
In the 10th over, what had been a sound front-foot defence by Kane Williamson was beaten by a low delivery by Taijul Islam that rapped him on the pad. The first-innings centurion waited until the last possible moment to review — and after watching a replay didn’t wait for ball-tracking before trudging off.
Henry Nicholls came and went eight deliveries later, top-edging a sweep that wasn’t there to play, and the Black Caps staggered to tea on 37-3.
Bangladesh lost their second review in the first over of the final session, exuberance threatening to undermine their excellence as Taijul generated prodigious turn to deceive Devon Conway on a delivery revealed to be clearing the stumps.
The opener lasted only another six overs before Taijul again beat his man, an inside edge on this occasion popping off Conway’s pad straight to short leg. And once Tom Blundell feathered a faint edge behind from the same bowler, New Zealand had fallen to 64-5.
The good news for the tourists was they then proceeded to put on their best partnership of the innings. That bad news was it brought only 21 runs before Glenn Phillips was caught deep in his crease by Nayeem Hasan and Bangladesh successfully gambled with their third review.
Mitchell continued his one-man rearguard with a little luck, dropped on 29 after turning Nayeem around the corner where Shahadat Hossain spilled the chance at leg slip. Kyle Jamieson enjoyed no such fortune with an lbw review, giving Taijul a fourth to match his first-innings total.
That left the bowlers with plenty of batting work, when they might have hoped their job had been done well on the fourth morning.
After Bangladesh resumed on 212-3, New Zealand’s attack quickly banished a blunt third day as Ajaz Patel snared four scalps and Sodhi chimed in with a couple. The success of the spinners must have prompted some concern among the tourists, however, and any angst would prove warranted.
The Black Caps’ chase might have been less challenging had television umpire Rod Tucker not declined a catch appeal when Mehidy Hasan Miraz was on 13.
Nicholls thought he had snagged a fine low grab at mid-off to dismiss the allrounder but, despite a soft on-field signal of out and replays appearing inconclusive, Tucker determined the ball had made contact with grass.
Mehidy remained unbeaten on 50 when Bangladesh were eventually dismissed, but their spinners would soon render those extra runs immaterial.
BDST: 1733 HRS, DEC 01, 2023