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The Preview by Mohammad Isam
September 20, 2012
Match factsSeptember 21, 2012
Big PictureNew Zealand, considered underdogs for the tournament, will open their World Twenty20 campaign against a team that is also considered this year's dark horses and actually hold a mental edge over them - Bangladesh crushed the visiting New Zealand side 4-0 in a one-day series, and though that was two years ago, the memory is fresh for the eight members of the current squad who rejoiced with the cricket-crazy nation at the time. But Bangladesh have to quickly realise New Zealand will be eager to take the lead in a group that also contains Pakistan.
Ross Taylor will lead a side that has traditionally done well in multi-team tournaments, where they gel as a unit to reduce the gap between them and more talented or experienced sides. But this hasn't been a very positive year for New Zealand. They did start the 2011-12 season with home and away wins over Zimbabwe on either side of a drawn Test series in Australia - which included that win in Hobart - but it has been downhill ever since, losing at home to South Africa and away to West Indies in all three formats. There was a spark of hope coming into this tournament, as they recovered from a Test-series loss in India to take the rain-hit Twenty20 series 1-0 with a win in Chennai. Subsequently, in a way, this is a great stage for New Zealand - they get a global tournament in which to impress and make up for a poor year.
The main issue for them is fitness: Daniel Vettori, Tim Southee and Rob Nicol went to Kandy a day later than the rest of the team, too sick to travel on the stipulated day. The trio suffered gastro problems in Colombo, but have since recovered and are likely to be fit for selection. Also, Kyle Mills, who was recovering from his collision with Brendon McCullum during the India T20, had a bout of laryngitis. He too is expected to be fit.
Still, whether they are tested would entirely depend on how much fight Bangladesh can provide. Bangladesh, as opposed to New Zealand, come into this competition confident and well-prepared: after their rousing Asia Cup performance, they have devoted the Bangladesh off-season to exclusively playing Twenty20s.
The recent history between the two sides, the talent within them and their strong reasons for needing to reach the Super Eights could produce a tremendous encounter.
Form guideBangladesh LWLWW (completed matches, most recent first)
Watch out forBrendon McCullum, the man who has played some of the most memorable Twenty20 innings since the format's inception. It is not really a surprise that he is the leading run-scorer in Twenty20 internationals. His most recent chartbuster came from No. 3 against India and he could continue in that role.
Bangladesh would expect Tamim Iqbal, their most destructive batsman, to be the fire-starter. Like McCullum, he can carve up an attack if things go to plan. But that's where the similarities end. Tamim hasn't fulfilled expectations in Twenty20 cricket, but the recent series in Europe and, especially, the Sri Lanka Premier League have helped him understand the format's demands.
Team newsFor once Bangladesh have a settled line-up in Twenty20 cricket. The modified top-order would mean persistence with Mohammad Ashraful as Tamim's opening partner and Shakib Al Hasan at No. 3. Shakib's promotion would leave the middle-order with the task of finishing games, with Mushfiqur Rahim leading the way, and Nasir Hossain and Mahmudullah for company. Ziaur Rahman and Mashrafe Mortaza will provide the big-hitting down the order. The only change, mainly due to conditions in Pallekele that are not too conducive to spin bowling, could be that Abul Hasan's pace is preferred to the left-arm spin of Elias Sunny. Jahurul Islam, Farhad Reza and Junaid Siddique will only get a look-in if there's an injury.
Bangladesh (probable) 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Mohammad Ashraful, 3 Shakib Al Hasan, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt & wk), 5 Nasir Hossain, 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Ziaur Rahman, 8 Mashrafe Mortaza, 9 Abdur Razzak, 10 Shafiul Islam, 11 Elias Sunny/Abul Hasan
New Zealand possess some prominent T20 cricketers; the key for Taylor would be to put together a line-up that balances attack and defence. He would be mindful of keeping the Bangladesh top-order quiet - Nathan McCullum could take the new ball to counter left-hander Tamim, but the difficulty would be to pick between four specialist pace bowlers who offer something different. Southee, if he has recovered sufficiently, would be picked on form, but Doug Bracewell and Adam Milne have pace, while Mills has guile.
New Zealand (probable) 1 Rob Nicol, 2 Martin Guptill, 3 Brendon McCullum (wk), 4 Kane Williamson, 5 Ross Taylor (capt), 6 Jacob Oram, 7 James Franklin, 8 Daniel Vettori, 9 Nathan McCullum, 10 Tim Southee/Doug Bracewell, 11 Kyle Mills/Adam Milne
Pitch and conditionsThe batsmen would be happy to know that the Pallekele pitches offer a better run-rate than the other two venues at the World Twenty20 and New Zealand have some idea of this venue's profligate nature: they racked up a 300-plus score against Pakistan in the World Cup here last year and won by 110 runs. The weather, however, could ruin the contest, as there is forecast of rain in the area at noon on Friday.
Stats and trivia
Quotes"If we had played some of our build-up matches against top teams, preparations would have been a little better. Still, with us playing together for quite some time now, I believe this is our best Twenty20 team."
"It's a very tough group and it's going to be a tough game. We can't take them for granted, they have got some world-class players in their side and we know that. We have respect for them and we can only control how we play."
New Zealand's Martin Guptill
Our US readers can watch the match live here, coverage starts 30 minutes before the game begins.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in BangladeshFeeds: Mohammad Isam
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala