How leads New Zealand to easy win
A patient 88 by opener Jamie How helped New Zealand ease to a comfortable six-wicket win against Bangladesh at Eden Park to take a 1-0 lead in the series. After an express 97-run partnership between Mohammad Ashraful and Tamim Iqbal, it was all one-way traffic as the Bangladesh middle order came a cropper, and the target of 202 was barely enough to turn it into a contest.
The Bangladesh seamers could do no more than restrict the openers from blitzing away, but weren't able to prise out any early wickets. Both How and Brendon McCullum paced their innings well and ensured New Zealand were ahead of the required rate, with rain around the corner. How's innings wasn't studded with flashy boundaries but he kept rotating the strike. Shahadat Hossain, searching for swing, tested How with yorker length deliveries which he managed to dig out. Normally strong on the on side, How wasn't always in control of his favourite pull stroke as a few swishes met with thin air. When he did connect though, it was a treat to watch, especially when he swivelled and bludgeoned Shahadat Hossain over square leg.
McCullum meanwhile showed more intent by standing outside his crease to the seamers. Left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak was brought on in the 11th over to plug the runs but McCullum had plans for him as well, using his feet to fetch two sixes. McCullum looked set for a fifty but fell on 40, chipping the ball tamely back to Farhad Reza.
How brought up his his fifth ODI half-century with a firm push off Reza to beat the diving mid-on. The solid opening stand of 90 put New Zealand well on track, and gave No. 3 Peter Fulton, returning from injury, time to play a steady hand. Fulton found the gentle pace of Reza to his liking, collecting two fours in successive overs. Bangladesh lacked spark in the field, exemplified by a misfield for four at long leg, despite two fielders converging on the ball.
A major factor which worked against them was the ineffectiveness of their spinners. Known for sending down miserly spells in helpful conditions, this just wasn't their day. With no turn on offer, Shakib and Razzak merely floated the ball and got it to land on a fullish length and were easily picked off for singles by the batsmen. Though Shakib grabbed three wickets - How, Fulton and Ross Taylor - it was a little too late. How was unfortunate to fall short of his maiden ton, trying to go over deep extra-cover. Scott Styris enjoyed a good hit on the park to take New Zealand home.
While the result was predictable, the Boxing Day crowd had their share of entertainment during the Ashraful-Tamim stand earlier. After Aftab Ahmed's infuriatingly brief knock, Ashraful immediately took on Kyle Mills with an expansive loft over cover which just fell short of the rope. He then bullied Mark Gillespie with a chip over midwicket, followed by an exquisite pull over square leg and a cheeky scoop over short fine-leg, as if stepping out for a Twenty20 match. After 14 runs were conceded off the 14th over, Daniel Vettori delayed the third Powerplay to counter the onslaught.
That made little difference as the run-rate continued to mount. Both Ashraful and Tamim punished anything outside off with controlled late cuts, chips over the on side and smashing cover drives. Tamim fell over while attempting a slog sweep over Vettori but the timing was enough to carry it over the boundary. Having survived a drop by Martin at deep midwicket, Tamim rubbed it in further by belting Jacob Oram for six over long-on. Ashraful helped himself to a fifty, off just 38 balls and Tamim followed suit soon after.
As has been the bane for Bangladesh for so long, the purple patch was rather short-lived. Tamim perished off an ugly swish outside off which lobbed to Gillespie at deep backward-point and Ashraful became Oram's second victim after pulling straight to deep square-leg. After perfecting the same stroke on a few occasions early on, the elevation was missing this time. His reaction, after getting out for 70, was so volatile that he could have sentenced himself to solitary confinement.
The wicket burst continued after Gillespie and Oram combined to pick up three more and Bangladesh, placed comfortably at 150 for 3, lost their last seven wickets for the addition of 51.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is an editorial assistant at Cricinfo