Vettori and McCullum thrash Bangladesh
The last day of the year was a memorable one for Daniel Vettori, who won another toss, grabbed five easy wickets to become New Zealand's highest limited-overs wicket-taker, and basked in his first series victory since taking over the captaincy after the World Cup. For Bangladesh, it was an utterly forgettable day, as they slumped to their worst defeat ever in one-day internationals, by ten wickets with 264 balls to spare. In the history of ODIs, only three times has a team won with more deliveries remaining.
Rain was expected but the weather held up in sunny Queenstown, New Zealand's "Vegas by the Lake", and Vettori played all his cards right to spin Bangladesh out for just 93, a total overhauled by Brendon McCullum's murderous 29-ball 80 before the local caterers burned lunch. Against the backdrop of the scenic Remarkables hill range, Bangladesh were simply annihilated, a 3-0 sweep was completed, and the hosts went into the New Year in a festive mood ahead of a busy season.
Before this game Mohammad Ashraful, Bangladesh's captain, demanded his side improve from an "unacceptable" performance in the second match, but it appeared no one was listening. Vettori's good luck at the toss continued and he had little hesitation in giving his bowlers a crack at a struggling Bangladeshi top order, whose penchant for driving on the up had them in knots. They got away with it in Napier, to an extent, but struggled in seam-friendly conditions where the ball didn't come onto the ball all that easily.
Kyle Mills' good series continued as he bowled Junaid Siddique in the third over, going for an expansive drive and inside-edging back onto his stumps. Mills and every seamer included bowled accurately and asked plenty of questions of the batsmen. Michael Mason, sporting a bit of hair dye in his first game since the World Cup, picked up an out-of-sorts Tamim Iqbal in his second over, the 16th. Struggling to time the ball off the square, Tamim saw some width and poked at it, but was smartly snapped at slip by Scott Styris, diving to his left. His laborious 13 from 56 deliveries summed up Bangladesh's predicament.
Ashraful began to take some risks, giving himself room to carve boundaries through and over point but trying to pull Mason into Lake Wakatipu was neatly picked up by Jacob Oram just inside the ropes at deep backward square. Oram was soon into action with the ball as well, picking up Tushar Imran. An extra bit of bounce did it for Tushar, pushing forward and getting a thick outside edge to McCullum; that made it 46 for 4 after 19 overs.
Vettori held himself back until after the 25-over mark but didn't waste any time leveling himself with Chris Harris on 203 one-day wickets for his country. Aftab Ahmed failed to curb his enthusiasm and a tame sweep went nowhere but into square leg's waiting palms. But the one to cherish came three deliveries later, as Shakib al Hasan went to cut but dragged onto his stumps, taking Vettori to the top of the list.
The field required batsmen to play the ball late, with soft hands, but the Bangladeshis were eager to flash hard. There were no demons in the track but the batsmen, struggling to get the timing they wanted, were unsuccessful in working the ball square of the pitch. Vettori varied his flight, stuck in two slips and bowled as if it was a Test match. The lack of confidence from the batsmen was evident from the start but this was a whole new low as some reckless shot selection continued. Vettori took the pace off the ball, got it to bounce and spit, and Bangladesh folded for a paltry total in 37.5 overs. Vettori's five-wicket bag also made him the highest one-day wicket-taker of the year, with 42.
New Zealand's openers found themselves padding up well before the scheduled interval and McCullum gave the Monday morning crowd the perfect entertainment after Bangladesh flopped with the bat. Setting about like he had a pre-New Years lunch to attend, he plundered 21 runs in the second over, survived a drop at third man in the next, and celebrated by sending the ball out of the park for the first of his six sixes. It was sheer carnage, McCullum thumping Shahadat for 38 in two overs and Shakib for a couple more dingers in the fifth over; anyone tuning in at that stage could be forgiven for thinking it was a Twenty20 highlights reel.
Cover, point, midwicket, long-off, long-on were all pinged with alarming fluency by McCullum. Either giving himself room or sauntering down the track, he was unstoppable, and his short-arm jabs were packed with power. Ashraful and his bowlers - he turned to spin after four overs - had no answer to such hitting. With a grin on his face, McCullum raised his fifty from just 19 balls, a New Zealand record and the third-fastest ever, before finishing a terribly one-sided affair in just six overs. Jamie How, at the other end, scored just 7 in a thumping 95-run stand, such was McCullum's brilliance. Seldom has a batsman so dominated the initial stages of a one-day match.
Exactly a year ago New Zealand clinched a one-wicket thriller against Sri Lanka at this very venue and it was, once again, a great way to end the year.
Jamie Alter is a staff writer at Cricinfo