First Test

New Zealand v Bangladesh 2007-08

At University Oval, Dunedin, January 4, 5, 6, 2008. New Zealand won by nine wickets. Toss: New Zealand. Test debuts: Junaid Siddique, Sajidul Islam, Tamim Iqbal.

If Olympic medals were issued for Tests then New Zealand would have won the gold, and Bangladesh only bronze, after the first match at the refurbished University Oval, the 96th ground to stage Test cricket worldwide. For Bangladesh, their 50th Test match was a disaster: it ended with their 44th defeat, to go with five draws and just one victory, over Zimbabwe. Put in, they lost all ten wickets before tea on the first day for 137; and on the third day they lost all their second-innings wickets for just 93. In between those sad processions New Zealand recovered from losing Cumming to the left-armer Sajidul Islam's eighth ball in Tests, and reached 357, on the back of centuries by a familiar star in Oram, and a reborn one in Matthew Bell, playing his 14th Test more than six years after his previous cap.

However, for a while towards the end of the second day two talented young debutants - Tamim Iqbal and Junaid Siddique - caught the eye with a stylish opening partnership. Both left-handers, they had knocked off 148 of the arrears by the close, and extended their stand on the third morning to 161, a record for Bangladesh's first wicket in Tests, beating the 133 of Javed Omar and Nafis Iqbal (Tamim's elder brother) against Zimbabwe at Dhaka in 2004-05. Both collected 12 fours, and Tamim also hit a six.

By the time they were separated New Zealand's advantage had been trimmed from 220 to 59 - but it was the familiar story after that. Bangladesh eventually capitulated for 254, leaving New Zealand only 35 to win, which they achieved in less than nine overs. Fulton ended the match by hitting Mohammad Ashraful's only delivery for six.

Bell, a pugnacious little Wellingtonian, had scored a Test century against Pakistan at Hamilton in March 2001, but was cast aside less than a year later as he stubbornly fiddled with different batting techniques. Now 30, Bell had averaged over 100 in the domestic build-up to this Test, and there was an imposing inevitability about his first innings 107, which contained 18 fours. Oram's century, which also contained 18 boundaries - one of them a six - was his fourth in Tests. There was even time for Martin to reach double figures for the first time, in his 36th Test (49th innings).

While Tamim and Junaid were weaving their magic on the second day, New Zealand's bowling looked unthreatening on a docile pitch. On the first day, though, Martin had added some new-ball muscle with the top four wickets, and later Vettori politely strangled the life out of the tourists' second innings with four more.

Alan Lee once wrote in The Times that watching Test cricket at Dunedin's old Carisbrook ground was rather like spending a midwinter exile in a run-down Polish mining town. Twenty-odd years later, Dunedin cricket was reborn on the lovely old University Oval, which may become a bijou beauty on the international circuit. It is encircled by huge trees, has a well-manicured outfield and a solid grandstand named after the Otago Daily Times. The pitch - after rushed surgery earlier in the season when a game scheduled for four days finished by tea on the second - played sedately for the most part.

Man of the Match: J. D. P. Oram.

© Wisden Almanack