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Bangladesh embarked on their second overseas Test tour in the hope of learning plenty, even if they won nothing. However, there must have been moments when they wondered if this four-match trip to New Zealand was too short and too demanding to provide a useful lesson.
Predictably, their results - one draw and three defeats - were poor. The opening match, against a District Association XI, was reduced to a single, meaningless day by the summer rains that plagued the whole tour, and the three first-class games were embarrassingly one-sided. Auckland won by an innings and 193 runs in a match that only just stretched into a fourth day; rain in Hamilton effectively reduced the First Test to a three-day game, though this was quite enough for New Zealand to win by an innings and 52; and the Second Test in Wellington had a similar outcome - an innings and 74 inside three days (excluding the second, which was washed out).
In several respects, the trip's timing was unfortunate. Bangladesh arrived in December to find New Zealand experiencing its wettest spring and early summer in recent memory. The green, juicy pitches demanded different skills and techniques from the flat, rolled-mud wickets at home. The batsmen's attempts to go back to cope with the extra pace and bounce, and their obvious discomfort when not scoring briskly, meant they struggled to play either swing or seam. Two practice matches never looked adequate preparation, and rain gave the Bangladeshis even less opportunity to adapt.
Batting proved their major weakness. In six first-class innings, they never faced a second new ball, only two batsmen (Aminul Islam against Auckland and in the Second Test, Al Sahariar in the First) ever stayed in for more than two hours, and there were only two Test fifties. This inability to construct long innings - individually or collectively - scuppered any chance of salvaging draws. It was a pity that an overcrowded international schedule led to the cancellation of a one-day series, to which the Bangladeshis' attacking, ambitious batting was better suited.
Their bowling looked to have adapted well to alien conditions when they reduced New Zealand to 51 for four in the opening session of the First Test. But they could not sustain the performance; as the inequality between the teams became clear, only Manjurul Islam continued to hold his own. A medium-fast left-armer in the mould of Sri Lanka's Chaminda Vaas, he swung and seamed the ball, and finished with nine for 270 in three first-class innings. Two young seamers provided support: Mashrafe bin Mortaza, plucked from the Under-19s, had a good, strong action to go with his height, while Mohammad Sharif, who turned 16 during the tour, showed great persistence. However, both were serving their apprenticeship, and Bangladesh lacked another senior bowler. The spin bowling was well below subcontinental standards: only Enamul Haque, an orthodox left-armer, looked international quality. Strangely, he was sidelined for the Tests.
Besides the bad weather, Bangladesh were unlucky to come up against a tough New Zealand team who had just held their own against the powerful Australians. Chris Cairns and Daniel Vettori had returned to full fitness, and Stephen Fleming's confidence was shown by positive declarations. Cairns's all-round excellence shone out, Shane Bond confirmed his arrival as a bowler of genuine pace, while Mark Richardson and Craig McMillan made big scores after the early wickets in the First Test. Even so, the New Zealanders might have wondered what lasting benefits they could derive from this series. No such doubts were expressed by Bangladesh. Their coach, Trevor Chappell, was adamant that by exposing his players to new conditions and methods such tours would help develop a team of genuine Test quality. He had a point, but this trip was too short, and the opposition too strong, to achieve his aims. The tourists remained in good spirits, yet it was an unsatisfactory visit - through poor planning as much as bad timing.
Match reports for
Tour Match: New Zealand District Association XI v Bangladeshis at Wanganui, Dec 7-9, 2001
Tour Match: Auckland v Bangladeshis at Auckland, Dec 12-15, 2001