New Zealand seek a quick revival
On paper, New Zealand begin the three-match one-day series starting tomorrow in Auckland as overwhelming favourites, given the home conditions and the hunger to reverse a shoddy away season against South Africa and Australia. However, the picture doesn't look as rosy as they would have liked; their opponents, Bangladesh, are far from pushovers and one false move could spell further embarrassment for the home side.
New Zealand's batting has been an obvious struggle, particularly in South Africa, where they failed to cross 188 in the two-Test series, and had no answer to the pace and swing of Dale Steyn. Shaun Tait compounded their woes during the Chappell-Hadlee series in Australia, and the absence of a collective effort in the batting was primarily responsible for ending their twin tours with just a solitary win in seven international games.
Captain Daniel Vettori recognised the need for his batsmen to step up and help build enough confidence ahead of England's visit in February. However, the players may not have the luxury of time to find much-needed form, after selection chairman Richard Hadlee announced that the Test squad against Bangladesh will be announced after the second one-dayer. While Hadlee didn't single out any players, he hinted that the top performers at the domestic season could be in for call-ups sooner rather than later.
"I'm not prepared to single out a player," Hadlee told the New Zealand Herald. "If we need to reward players at domestic level at the expense of the incumbent players, then that's the professional environment. We want some results and we have to find methods of getting results."
The return of Peter Fulton - one of their most consistent players last season - from a knee injury should come as a boost, though he failed in the Twenty20 charity match against the Bangladeshis on Sunday, scoring 3. Returning after a lay-off since the World Cup semi-final against Sri Lanka, Fulton has been in good touch for Canterbury, scoring a hundred and two fifties. He is likely to bat at No. 3, with Jamie How and the in-form Brendon McCullum set to open.
"Sometimes when you miss out through injury you give someone else an opportunity, and if they take it then it can take a long time to get back in," Fulton told the Dominion Post. I'm just relieved that, in a way, no-one took the opportunity to stamp their mark on the side. I got a couple of hundreds last week in club cricket as well, so it has been a pretty good three or four week period with the bat to be honest."
Bangladesh have had mixed results, starting the tour with defeats to Auckland and Northern Districts by the same margin of seven wickets. However, they managed to round off their last practice game ahead of the one-dayers with a four-wicket win in the Twenty20 against New Zealand XI. The bowlers - led by Shahadat Hossain - managed to keep it tight and the middle order chipped in to wipe out the target of 134 with three overs to spare.
Openers Tamim Iqbal and Junaid Siddique have impressed so far with a century and half-century respectively but the rest have failed to carry on after making starts. In all probability, Bangladesh may go in with the same winning combination at Eden Park tomorrow.
Interestingly, Bangladesh will be playing their first ever ODI on New Zealand soil. Their last tour, in 2001-02, included just two Tests.
New Zealand: Jamie How, Brendon McCullum, Peter Fulton, Ross Taylor, Scott Styris, Mathew Sinclair, Jacob Oram, Daniel Vettori, Kyle Mills, Mark Gillespie, Chris Martin
Bangladesh: Tamim Iqbal, Junaid Siddique, Mohammad Ashraful, Aftab Ahmed, Javed Omar, Shakib Al Hasan, Farhad Reza, Mehrab Hossain Jnr, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Sajidul Islam, Shahadat Hossain, Mashrafe Mortaza