New Zealand clinch series with stuttering win
New Zealand 147 for 7 (Sinclair 62, Aftab 5-31) beat Bangladesh 146 by 3 wickets
New Zealand made heavy weather of a small target on a flat deck at the Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka, but still managed to clinch the three-match series 2-0. A fine bowling performance where wickets were shared all round ensured that Bangladesh were dismissed for an unthreatening 146. But then New Zealand batted shabbily, stunned by Aftab Ahmed's five-wicket haul, and lost seven wickets before stuttering past their target in 44.4 overs.
The match as a contest ended in just under ten overs, when Bangladesh were rattled at 51 for 5. A healthy holiday crowd was on hand to witness the carnage, and at one point it looked as though the game would be finished before the lights came on. Kyle Mills did the early damage, sending back Nafis Iqbal and Aftab in the very first over, with two delectable outswingers that found their way to safe hands behind the stumps via the outside edge (5 for 2).
Javed Omar managed to relieve the pounding pressure somewhat with a couple of boundaries, but then Habibul Bashar, the captain, was blasted out by a perfectly directed James Franklin yorker (22 for 3). Then Omar lost his cool, tried to punch a wide delivery through the off side and dragged the ball back onto his stumps (25 for 4).
Mohammad Ashraful, that carefree biffer of a cricket ball, then spooned Scott Styris to Franklin at mid-on, but was let off. Two balls later he showed that he was going to continue on his merry way regardless and, in an action replay, offered an even simpler chance to the same fielder. Franklin held on this time, and half the Bangladeshi batting was back in the pavilion.
No strangers to top-order strife, Rajin Saleh and Khaled Mashud mounted a recovery. Saleh did what he knows best, defending stoically and only occasionally deflected the ball away for singles. Mashud, however, was more authoritative. A cover-drive, a glance to fine leg and a tuck off the hips all found the fence, and suddenly, a partnership was building.
Daniel Vettori, leading this New Zealand team, threw the ball to Chris Cairns, and the sixth-wicket partnership of 57 was broken. Cairns, looking stately in his full beard, bustled in and winkled out two quick wickets. Mashud (41) was brilliantly caught by a diving Chris Harris at cover (108 for 6), while Saleh (28) feathered an edge to the keeper (125 for 7).
From there on, it was only a matter of closing out the innings, and New Zealand did so in 43.4 overs. Left to chase 147, Mathew Sinclair and Nathan Astle began watchfully. There was a bit of dew around as the lights came on, and Tapash Baisya got the ball to bite off the pitch on more than one occasion. However, there were also plenty of loose balls on offer, and the fifty partnership for the first wicket came up in the 14th over.
Sinclair and Astle struck the ball efficiently, if not spectacularly, and were coasting towards the target when suddenly two wickets went down in one over, completely against the run of play. Aftab, a part-time seamer at best, had Astle (29) caught at midwicket when he miscued a pull (74 for 1) and three balls later trapped Hamish Marshall plumb in front (76 for 2).
Sinclair then brought up his sixth one-day international half-century with a sweetly timed on-drive off Aftab. Scott Styris, who came to the wicket at the fall of the second wicket, smacked a magnificent cover-drive, showing scant regard for the fact that those two wickets had just fallen. Sinclair went over the top with gusto, laced one inside-out drive past cover, and suddenly New Zealand needed less than 50 to win.
Mohammad Rafique was then rewarded for some canny bowling when Sinclair (62) overstretched and was smartly stumped by Mashud (103 for 3). This got the crowd on their feet, and soon enough they had the slightest flicker of hope when Styris played all over a straight one from Aftab and was clean bowled (114 for 4). Aftab then more than made up for his failure with the bat, trapping Craig MacMillan in front (125 for 5). Unbelievably, Brendon McCullum then became Aftab's fifth victim, easily adjudged lbw. Aftab, bowling for the first time in a one-dayer - this was his fourth match - ended with 5 for 31 from his ten overs. No Bangladeshi bowler had ever taken five wickets in an ODI before.
Baisya, who bowled without luck at the start of the innings, came to the party. Harris struck one sweet drive through the covers, but then failed to replicate the same timing with his pull, which lobbed up to mid-on (133 for 7). Bangladesh had shown incredible fight, but were just a few runs short as New Zealand crept passed the finish line with only three wickets to spare.