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January 5, 2008
Junaid Siddique and Tamim Iqbal showed there was plenty of fight in the Bangladesh camp, adding a record 148-run opening stand on a slow track to reduce the deficit to 72 on day two at Dunedin's University Oval. Inspired by a new-ball burst that checked New Zealand's lower order - the first time in seven Tests they bowled a side out - the debutant left-handed openers bravely chipped away at a 220-run first-innings lead and left the hosts with plenty to think about.
New Zealand dominated the first half of the day as Matthew Bell made his comeback Test one to remember, converting his excellent provincial form into a second Test century, and Jacob Oram thumped a brisk fourth century, but they will be kicking themselves for not getting a larger total.
If Tamim and Siddique were under pressure in their first Test, it rarely showed. Their association didn't start pretty - Tamim was dropped by Iain O'Brien and a slog off Daniel Vettori was misjudged by Chris Martin in the deep - but the openers fought through a testing passage against a moving new ball. Initially eager to manufacture runs, they wisely settled down to press for time. But that didn't mean the scoring rate reduced. Ticking along at around five runs an over, Siddique played some convincing drives down the ground while Tamim, happier to get onto the back foot, hooked and pulled fours. The team fifty was on the board in the 11th over.
The two played on New Zealand's mind. Anything full was driven firmly by Siddique, prompting the seamers to hold back the length, at which time Tamim flashed hard and picked the gaps, more often than not. Siddique got to fifty first, thumping O'Brien for four, and his maiden effort was well appreciated by a raucous dressing room. Tamim slogged Vettori to bring up the 100 in the 20th over and soon celebrated his second fifty of the match, driving Vettori against the spin for four. While Vettori struggled to locate his angle Tamim put him away through cover-point.
While they were near impeccable in defence, both waited for the short stuff from Vettori and when it came, they thrashed behind point. As the pitch flattened out, so did the bowling. About 15 minutes before stumps a record was achieved with a nudge past square leg - it was the highest opening stand for Bangladesh. Even in the last over of the day Tamim and Siddique were playing their shots, such was their positive mindset.
There was nothing in the first half hour which suggested it wouldn't be a good batting day. With six wickets left New Zealand were in the position to command. The pitch played a lot better on day one than expected. Bangladesh needed early wickets but there were far too many loose balls that allowed Bell and Oram to start confidently.
When he decided to put them away, Oram was clinical, and such was his power and placement that the fielders had little chance of stopping shorts. Putting his height to good use, he drove and punched with power, his on-drives especially well-timed. Enamul Haque jnr bowled a touch too short and was easy pickings for Oram on a slow pitch.
If Oram was eager to get to a hundred, Bell was understandably patient to reach his second, seven years after his first. Making the most of an umpiring reprieve on 97 - umpire Peter Parker failed to see pad first on a very good leg before shout from Mashrafe Mortaza - Bell moved out of a tense couple of overs in the nineties with another dab between gully and the slips, to cheer from his home town crowd. For a team whose opening combinations have been poor all season, Bell's hundred was a whiff of fresh air.
Mohammad Ashraful struck twice before lunch, getting Bell and Brendon McCullum, but Oram didn't keep the crowd waiting long after lunch, easing one to the midwicket boundary to raise three figures at a healthy strike rate of 70. To celebrate, Oram lifted an Ashaful long hop into the car park.
The new ball, taken with New Zealand 320 for 6, worked straight away as Oram bottom-edged onto his stumps. Kyle Mills pushed his first ball into the wicketkeeper's hands to lift sagging shoulders and Vettori tried one shot too many and chipped a simple catch to mid-on. Mortaza's fourth wicket curtailed the innings at 357, a total that seemed extremely healthy at the time.
After a largely unsuccessful first day with the bat Bangladesh had put themselves under pressure, but thanks to two teenagers with an appetite for a scrap they're almost matching New Zealand step for step.