For four consecutive days of the first Test at the Basin Reserve, it appeared to be a contest between the batsmen of both sides and draw seemed the likeliest outcome. However, at a crucial juncture of the match, the home side’s bowlers bowled with verve and discipline to bundle out Bangladesh for just 160 in their second innings.
Mehedi Hasan caused a few flutters in the New Zealand camp by prising Jeet Raval (13) and Tom Latham (16) even before the hosts had crossed the 50-run mark, but he had too much to do as New Zealand chased down the target in only 39.4 overs.
It was the veteran pair of Williamson and Taylor, who calmed down the jangling nerves in the camp by attuning to the conditions quickly. Williamson, in particular, broadened his game, and effortlessly shifted gears to crunch a volley of shots. You name a shot from the MCC coaching manual and Williamson played it.
He cut, drove, whipped and lofted Bangladesh’s bowlers to explore every nook and cranny of the ground. The way Williamson dominated the opposition attack can be encapsulated by the fact that he left alone only two deliveries in his innings. As Williamson inched closer towards his 15th Test hundred, there was a sense of resignation among Bangladesh’s players.
Taylor, too, joined in the fun and essayed a few eye-catching cuts and punches. Mehedi, in particular, came in for severe punishment. He ended up with expensive figures of 2 for 66 off 11.4 overs. With just 15 to get, Subashis Roy snared the scalp of Taylor. But by then the result of the game was more or less a foregone conclusion. To put the icing on the cake, Williamson reached his century with a boundary off Mehedi and closed out the match by pinching a single off the next ball to chart a splendid win.
If one turned the pages and looked back at the match, the groundwork for New Zealand’s victory was laid down by the unerring bowlers. When the hosts were all out for 540 in their first innings late on the fourth day, very few could have anticipated an abject collapse from Bangladesh, who themselves had posted 595 in the first essay.
However, the pace-spin combination of Mitchell Santner and Neil Wagner had other ideas. The duo knocked over the cream of Bangladesh’s batting line-up to give the home team genuine hopes of winning the match. Santner bowled with clever flight and control, while Wagner relentlessly attacked the batsmen with a barrage of short deliveries. Trent Boult then provided the finishing touches by blowing away the lower-order.
Bangladesh’s batsmen didn’t help their cause by playing poor shots. Shakib Al Hasan, in particular, was guilty of throwing his wicket away when he slogged one off Santner straight into the hands of the mid-on fielder. Sabbir Rahman played with determination for a while before he too played a loose shot to be dismissed for 50.
To make matters worse for the tourists, Mushfiqur Rahim and Imrul Kayes suffered untimely injuries. Rahim sustained a nasty blow on the back of his helmet and had to be taken to a nearby hospital in Wellington. It was a lifter from Tim Southee that didn’t rise off the pitch. Hence, Rahim turned his eyes off the ball as he looked to duck and was hit flush on his helmet and collapsed. He was later discharged from the hospital.
Kayes sustained a hip injury late on Day 4 and had to retire hurt. With Bangladesh eight down and Rahim ruled out of action, Kayes came out to bat. However, despite his best efforts, he couldn’t take Bangladesh out of troubled waters as the last man Subashis Roy was castled by Boult to end their innings.
For the vanquished Bangladesh side it was heartbreak. From the incredible high of Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim sharing a record stand of 359 for the fifth wicket in the first innings, they had to experience the pain of hurtling to a mind-numbing loss. Such gut-wrenching experiences might last in a sportsman’s mind for a long time. The pain will linger for a while, but they have to pick themselves up quickly as the second Test starts in three days time in Christchurch.
Brief scores: Bangladesh 595/8 decl. (Shakib Al Hasan 217, Mushfiqur Rahim 159; Neil Wagner 4-151) and 137/6 (Sabbir Rahman 40*; Neil Wagner 2-37) last to New Zealand 539 (Tom Latham 177, Kane Williamson 53; Mahmudullah 2-15) and 217/2 (Kane Williamson 104*; Mehedi Hasan 2-66) by 7 wickets.