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Bangladesh achieve a victory hardly anyone saw coming

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Roar Guru
5th January, 2022
2

Last month, Pakistan had declared on day four at 4-300, pushing for an unlikely win at Dhaka where rain had marred most of the second Test between Bangladesh and the visitors.

Bangladesh would be bowled out for 87 and 205, losing embarrassingly by an innings and eight runs late on day 5 – practically losing the Test in two days of play.

Confidence was low in the Bangladesh camp and skipper Mominul Haque made a passionate argument in the post-match press conference on how the focus on results in Bangladesh cricket meant that implementing a long-term process is almost impossible. A month later, Bangladesh have pulled off arguably the biggest upset in Test cricket, thrashing New Zealand in the city of Tauranga en route to an eight-wicket victory.

Winning the toss and electing to bowl first, Mominul Haque took a huge gamble by giving New Zealand a chance to score a first innings total in excess of 450. Despite a gritty 52 from Will Young and Devon Conway scoring a century (122) on day 1, some late wickets saw New Zealand end the opening day of play at 5-258.

With the momentum gained from late on the first day, Bangladesh wrapped up the New Zealand innings quickly, bowling out the Black Caps for 328 – their lowest first innings total against Bangladesh at home.

By bowling out New Zealand for less than 400 on a Mt Maunganui surface where the best batting time was day 2 and 3, Bangladesh gave themselves the best chance to post a big first innings total and push for a result.

Despite the wicket offering relatively low bounce, New Zealand’s pace quartet kept on trying to bounce out the Bangladeshi batters, instead of pitching it full. Bangladesh fought hard with the bat, but the genius of Neil Wagner ensured that the Blackcaps were not fully down and out.

Neil Wagner

(Photo by Jeremy Ng / AFP / Getty Images)

That is, until Wagner lost the plot. In the 80th over with Bangladesh 3-192, the game was in the balance when Haque had nicked off to Tom Blundell. But replays showed Wagner had bowled a no ball and Mominul received a lifeline. The New Zealand seamer swore out of frustration and was soon sledging constantly Mominul for a period of time.

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The Bangladesh skipper did not let Wagner’s barrage of words get to him, batting like Bangladesh’s batting coach Ashwell Prince had done in international cricket – grind the bowlers down before playing shots to the loose deliveries. While Mominul missed out on a century by 12 runs, a fifth wicket stand of 158 between Mominul and Liton Das (86) set the tone before Bangladesh’s lower order took them to 458 all out.

Although the lead was below 150, Bangladesh had kept the New Zealanders out in the field for over 176 overs and some tired legs would have to bat on a Mt Maunganui wicket starting to deteriorate. New Zealand batted well as Will Young took New Zealand to 2-136 into the final hour of day four.

Enter Ebadot Hossain. The Bangladesh Air Force soldier turned cricketer was averaging 81 with the ball before the New Zealand second innings. But a devastating spell of reverse swing by the speedster saw New Zealand collapse late on day 4 before being bowled out for 169 on day 5.

Ebadot finished with figures of 6-46; the best by a Bangladesh seamer outside of the subcontinent. Despite losing two wickets, Mushfiqur Rahim hit the winning runs in the 17th over as Bangladesh won by eight wickets in the first session of day 5.

This was not written in the script. New Zealand media outlets were predicting nothing less than a comprehensive win for the Black Caps. But Bangladesh turned up to Tauranga and out-bowled and out-batted New Zealand with ease. At no stage did the Test match head towards a comprehensive win for New Zealand. Rather, by the end of day one, New Zealand started to play catch up against an inexperienced Tigers outfit.

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The support staff in Bangladesh deserve a lot of credit. Head coach Russell Domingo (who was the head coach of South Africa when the Proteas were the last team to win a Test series in New Zealand in 2017) has prioritised Test cricket ever since the beginning of his tenure as Bangladesh coach, but has had to oversee home losses to Afghanistan and West Indies.

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It has been tough, but he is slowly starting to reap the rewards of prioritising red-ball cricket. Using his South African cricket connections, Domingo has managed to rope in Ashwell Prince as the batting coach and former South Africa head coach Otis Gibson as the bowling coach.

Gibson is a world-class bowling coach, and the way he managed to coach the Bangladesh pace trio to remain disciplined and bowl a stump to stump line was mesmerising. Spin bowling coach Rangana Herath (alongside former spin bowling coach Dan Vettori) both deserve a massive shoutout for the way they have managed to turn Mehedi Hasan Miraz into a more disciplined off-spinner, especially in conditions that do not turn from day 1.

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Lastly, the New Zealand Cricket Board also deserve their share of praise. For years, they have invited Bangladesh to tour them and allow the Tigers to improve in alien conditions, despite being constantly hammered.

But Bangladesh have finally had their moment of success in New Zealand. This win will make Cricket Australia and the English Cricket Board stand up and take notice; whether they will be competent enough to organise two Test series once every few years is a different issue.

January 5, 2022 is a date that will never be forgotten in Bangladesh. However, the job is still not done. With the second Test starting in Christchurch on Sunday morning, it may open a few wounds for some of the Bangladesh players who are returning to the city for the first time since they narrowly avoided death during the terrorist attack in 2019.

The Hagley Oval wicket will bring the New Zealand seamers into play, but Bangladesh have a few decent seamers ready to fire if they require a fourth seamer. Bangladesh may never have a bigger opportunity to make a name for themselves in Test cricket and it is important Domingo and his staff remind the players of that.

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