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New Zealand's first tour of Bangladesh ended in bitter disappointment for the Bangladeshis. There had been signs in recent series that they were coming to terms with the demands of the international game under their coach, Dav Whatmore. However, any optimism that those results may have engendered evaporated in a comprehensive defeat by the New Zealanders in both the Tests and the one-day series.
Bangladesh suffered a heavy blow before the Tests began when Habibul Bashar, their captain, best batsman and the only player to feature in all his country's previous 30 Test matches, was ruled out with a broken thumb. He returned for the one-day series, only to break his toe this time.
His replacement was Khaled Mashud, the wicket-keeper/batsman who had stepped down from the captaincy after Bangladesh's dismal performance in the 2003 World Cup. New Zealand also employed a stand-in captain for the one-day series, left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori replacing Stephen Fleming, who returned home after the Tests to recharge his batteries in readiness for his country's tour of Australia.
Vettori, who had taken only 16 wickets in his last nine Tests before arriving in Bangladesh, had a rewarding time in both the Test series and the oneday games. He captured 20 wickets in the two Tests, more than twice as many as any other player, and was a unanimous choice for the Man of the Series award. He might have been presented with a more serious challenge had his counterpart Mohammad Rafique bowled in more than two innings. However, that was enough for Rafique to become his country's first bowler to claim 50 Test wickets, in only 13 games, reaching the landmark faster than any of his contemporaries in the left-arm spinning fraternity. Given that Rafique rarely gets the chance to bowl in the fourth innings of a match, he can claim to be a serious challenger to Vettori's status as the best left-arm spinner in the game.
Not even the skills of Rafique could compensate for some feeble batting displays by his team-mates, however. The failure of the top order has been haunting Bangladesh for some time, and a tally of just two half-centuries, from Mohammad Ashraful and Javed Omar, among the top six tells its own sorry story. Nor was the New Zealand batting entirely convincing, but major innings from Brendon McCullum and Fleming proved decisive. McCullum's maiden Test century, in his seventh appearance, turned the first match on its head after Rafique had threatened to bowl Bangladesh back into contention. And in the Second Test, a flawless double-century from Fleming effectively put the game beyond Bangladesh's reach by lunch on the second day.
Match reports for
Tour Match: Bangladesh Cricket Board XI v New Zealanders at Savar, Oct 14-16, 2004