Rain threat looms over Chittagong practice game
Forecast of rain on Friday morning coupled with an already wet outfield at the MA Aziz Stadium has threatened the start of the three-day practice match between the New Zealanders and BCB XI. Besides being an important tune-up for the New Zealand side, the match will also help Bangladesh take a final call on two positions being contested by three batsmen.
As of now, Marshall Ayub is ahead of Naeem Islam and Mominul Haque to fill in the No. 3 spot, according to Bangladesh coach Shane Jurgensen. If he does take the place of Mohammad Ashraful, it will be a Test debut for Marshall.
There is also a battle for the No. 4 position between Naeem and Mominul, with the former in the BCB XI side. "The practice match is important to give an indication of who stands where," Jurgensen said. "I think Marshall [Ayub] has really put his hand up in the practice match at Khulna a few weeks ago. We also got the option of Naeem [Islam] and then we have Mominul [Haque], who is a gutsy cricketer. He can bat for long periods.
"I think obviously Marshall [is ahead] at the moment, with his hundred in Khulna. He was quite impressive, batted for long periods. But it's still not fixed. It's exciting to have competition though: Naeem got runs in the Dhaka Premier League, Mominul got a hundred there too."
But there has already been substantial rain in Chittagong over the last week, including Thursday evening, the eve of the game. Unlike the other cricket-specific stadiums in the country, the MA Aziz Stadium has a flat outfield from where water doesn't easily drain out. The outfield in the other venues has a reversed bowl shape to it, so that the water trickles out quickly after a spell of rain.
The Bangladesh team management visited the venue in the afternoon, after which Jurgensen didn't sound too confident of an on-time start on the first day.
"I would be surprised if it does [start on time]," Jurgensen said. "There are a couple of wet patches in the outfield. They [the groundstaff] informed us that they had a bit of rain here in the last few days. We went there early in the afternoon; I suppose it will take a while to dry out."
However, the teams' scheduled training sessions on Thursday were cancelled not because of the rain, but due to logistical delays. New Zealand's flight to Chittagong was shifted from Wednesday to Thursday afternoon because there was a general strike in Chittagong. By the time they arrived, it was evening.
The two home sides, Bangladesh and BCB XI, arrived early in the morning on Thursday but their gear and baggage arrived in the afternoon. The Dhaka-Chittagong highway has severe traffic, and the truck took 17 hours to complete the journey of around 400km. Jurgensen wasn't best pleased, as it disrupted his plans leading up to the first Test.
He also hinted at being disappointed at how the selection of the first Test team was rushed. Reportedly, the Dhaka Premier League clubs arm-twisted the BCB into changing the practice match squad, so that their players can be available for the league matches.
The announcement of the Test squad was supposed to take place on the second day of the three-day match, which would have given the selectors, Jurgensen and Mushfiqur Rahim enough time to make a call on the undecided batting positions.
"We haven't been able to train because the luggage took a lot of time to come to Chittagong. We can't control that, and I can't control what happens in domestic cricket. But these things happen at times. We got to kick off again tomorrow.
"When you are a head coach you are planning for a series that is really important, maybe sometimes the intensity of international cricket is maybe missed. I have had plans in place for quite a few months, so it was a little bit disappointing that it took us a while to get together and get things settled, but at the same time that is how it is."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here