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Test matches (2): Bangladesh 0, New Zealand 1
One-day internationals (3): Bangladesh 1, New Zealand 2
New Zealand won the Test and one-day series as expected but, when they boarded the plane home, captain Daniel Vettori must have sighed with relief rather than elation. Looking back, he might have named the tour "The Great Escape". Previous encounters between these countries had been completely one- sided. Five of the six Tests had ended in innings defeats for Bangladesh, and in the other they barely made New Zealand bat twice. One-day games were no different: New Zealand had won all 11 at a canter.
It was supposed to be the same old story for Bangladesh, if not worse. When New Zealand arrived, the country's cricket was in turmoil. In September, 14 players - six of them centrally contracted with the Bangladesh board, including former captain Habibul Bashar - "retired" to play in the rebel Indian Cricket League. In deference to the Indian powers-that-be, the board banned them for ten years.
Maybe three or four of the ICL cricketers would have played against New Zealand. So Bangladesh's inexperienced team became even more in- experienced. But they sprang a surprise by putting up a brave fight: they won the first one-day international by seven wickets, arguably their most convincing victory over major opposition, and in each of the next two games got themselves into a position to win the series, only to surrender it.
After taking the one-day series 2-1 (which kept New Zealand in fourth place in the ICC one-day rankings; the expected 3-0 scoreline would have lifted them to second), Vettori admitted he was relieved. He must have thought the normal routine would be restored in the Tests, however. Before the First Test in Chittagong, he uncharacteristically declared that New Zealand would win even if they played to just 50% of their potential. They won all right, but had to play out of their skins to do it, especially the captain. It was virtually Bangladesh versus Vettori, and he came up with a superlative all-round performance to break the locals' hearts.
He had been surprisingly off-colour in the one-day series, but in the Tests he was at his best. New Zealand were an inexperienced side, too, as few of them had played in the subcontinent before. Knowing that, Vettori realised he would have to lead from the front. When New Zealand last toured Bangladesh in 2004-05, he had taken 20 wickets in four Test innings; this time, it was 14 in three, which made him easily the most successful bowler in the series. More remarkable was the fact that he headed the batting averages with 153 runs at 76; only Jesse Ryder scored more runs. By the end, Vettori's record in eight Tests against Bangladesh was 46 wickets at 14 and 302 runs at 50.
Bangladesh's batting and bowling averages were headed by another left- arm spinner and left-hand batsman, Shakib Al Hasan. He had been known predominantly as a batsman since his teens, but here he was picked as a spinner and responded by taking seven for 36 in New Zealand's first innings at Chittagong - the best bowling return for Bangladesh in Test cricket. Shakib was good, but Vettori was better, and that was the story of the series.
Match reports for
Tour Match: Bangladesh Cricket Board XI v New Zealanders at Fatullah, Oct 7, 2008
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