Bangladesh 172 (Mitchell Santer 3-65, Glenn Phillips 3-31) versus New Zealand 55-5 (Mehidy Hasan Miraz 3-17).
Never judge the performances of the two cricket sides until both teams have had a bat and a bowl.
It’s a much-used maxim for good reason, and stood out again amongst the surrounding gloom in Dhaka on day one of the second and final test between New Zealand and Bangladesh on Wednesday.
The Black Caps – and their fans – would have been chuffed when the spin trio of Mitchell Santner (3-65 from 28 overs), Glenn Phillips (3-31 from 12) and Ajaz Patel (2-54 from 17) dismissed the hosts for just 172 in 66.2 overs.
But a false dawn was rapidly revealed as the tourists lost five wickets for 55 runs before bad light brought about a premature stumps, as a number of the batters who succumbed poorly in the second innings of their defeat in the first test in Sylhet last week again looked short of form and confidence.
Devon Conway fell for 11 when bowled without playing a shot to an arm ball from offspinner Mehidy Hasan Miraz, and fellow opener Tom Latham perished to a cracking low catch from wicketkeeper Nurul Hasan only two runs later.
The booming clamour for World Cup breakout star Rachin Ravindra to replace Henry Nicholls had fallen on deaf ears amongst the tour selection group, but the criticism over the left-hander’s retention will only grow louder after he perished to an awfully mishit attempt to change the direction of the game and his fortunes for just the solitary run.
First-test century maker Kane Williamson (13) survived a missed catch before falling to a stunner close in on the leg-side and Tom Blundell was plumb lbw for a duck, playing back, to leave their side still 117 runs behind, with only five first-innings wickets up their sleeves.
Included amongst the Bangladesh batters to fall was Mushfiqur Rahim, who bizarrely opted to handle a ball after a defensive shot played against a Kyle Jamieson delivery which wasn’t threatening to hit his stumps, and resulted in him becoming the seventh player to be dismissed in that method – now part of the ‘obstructing the field’ laws.
Skipper Tim Southee lost the coin toss and admitted his side would also have opted to bat first, after just one change was made to the beaten first-test XI.
Santner, thought to be regarded now solely as a white-ball specialist, replaced legspinner Ish Sodhi.
The left-arm spinner, who excelled at the recent World Cup in India, had made just one test appearance since December 2020. Regularly criticised for not turning the ball enough for a frontline test spinner, the 31-year-old had no problems refuting that on the extraordinarily helpful Mirpur pitch as he bowled with lovely flight and control also.
On his birthday, Phillips again showed that his added value with the ball is no longer a surprise, while Southee returned the strangely incredible figures of 1-0 from 5.2 overs.
When play began, the weather resembled New Zealand in November conditions, and seemed set up for a surfeit of seam and swing.
But despite there being plenty of movement for Southee and Kyle Jamieson, the captain rapidly switched to spin. Patel’s first ball – to start the sixth over – was a ripper, and opposing opener Mahmudul Hasan Joy looked like he was terrifyingly occupying a minefield.
Tom Latham missed a run-out from close range at silly mid-on at the end of the over, but wickets tumbled quickly as Bangladesh fell to 47-4 after 15 overs.
Mushfiqur (35) and second-test rookie Shahadat Hossain (31) put up stubborn resistance in adding 57 for the fifth wicket before the veteran’s inexcusable dismissal opened up the tail.
Things had initially gone so well for the visitors that Southee – with Santner’s emphatic pleading – even got another DRS request to fall in his favour, while wicketkeeper Blundell took a couple of difficult catches standing up to the slow bowlers.
New Zealand also managed to bowl 21 maidens in 66.2 overs – compared to 23 over both innings in the defeat in Sylhet. That seemed impressive until the home side spun their magic.
The Mirpur wicket would likely have been prepared long before the hosts upset New Zealand in the first match, which left them requiring just a draw to score a maiden test series win over their rivals.
No doubt the home team’s batters would have liked a road, baked under the sun, allowing them to bat for two days after winning the toss, but with winter setting in, they were left with a pitch which looks likely to lead to a result well before the end of the scheduled five days – and with every chance of it being again in their favour.
BDST: 1706 HRS, DEC 06, 2023