First Test

Bangladesh v New Zealand 2008-09

Utpal Shuvro

At Chittagong, October 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 2008. New Zealand won by three wickets. Toss: Bangladesh. Test debuts: Naeem Islam; J. D. Ryder.


Daniel Vettori drives through the on side, Bangladesh v New Zealand, 1st Test, Chittagong, 5th day, October 21, 2008
Daniel Vettori's innings saved New Zealand from embarrassment © AFP
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This Test might not be remembered for the quality of cricket on display, but it was a gripping contest, a seesaw battle, and another match on Bangladesh's "almost there" list. They often held the upper hand, but it was difficult to predict the winner until the final afternoon, when New Zealand emerged triumphant.

When they set a target of 317, Bangladesh looked like favourites. New Zealand had to contend not only with the fourth- and fifth-day pitch but also with their own history. Only once had they won a Test chasing more than 300, when they made 324 to beat Pakistan at Christchurch in 1993-94. Overseas, their record was pathetic - their highest winning fourth innings was 164 at Perth in 1985-86, and their highest in the subcontinent 82 at Lahore in 1969-70. Although the wicket played surprisingly true, it was a mammoth effort to score the biggest total of the match. New Zealand coach John Bracewell hailed their three-wicket victory as "one of the great character wins".

No one showed more character than the captain, Daniel Vettori. He was the difference between the sides, as his opposite number Mohammad Ashraful - who had a horrendous match, scoring only two runs - admitted.

Vettori became the first player ever to score two fifties and take four or more wickets in both innings of a Test. Still this does not tell the full story of his impact on the game. In New Zealand's first innings, he came in at 99 for six, which was 100 for seven by the end of the over, and scored an unbeaten 55 to keep their deficit down to 74. But his second-innings 76 was a match-clincher. He batted more than four hours, this time at No. 4; reporters wondered if it was a vote of no confidence in his middle order, though he later declared he had gone in as night-watchman. Whatever his role, Vettori had all but decided the match when he got out attempting a slog-sweep, his first false stroke, with only 19 required. And in his more customary role, he collected nine wickets.

After claiming first use of a beautiful batting strip, Bangladesh had put on an exhibition of slow scoring, with only 34 runs off 32 overs (20 of them maidens) in the opening session. Three wickets fell for ten runs in the first 11 overs after lunch, but Mehrab Hossain and Mushfiqur Rahim raised the scoring-rate by adding 144 in 55 overs, a national fifth-wicket record, beating 126 by Ashraful and Aminul Islam against Sri Lanka in 2001-02. After that Bangladesh lost their last five wickets for 16, to be all out for 245.

But New Zealand's batsmen fared worse. Vettori's fellow slow left-armer, Shakib Al Hasan, who had managed no more than three wickets in his six previous Tests, mesmerised them, dismissing seven men for only 36 runs in 25.5 overs. Shakib went on to be the top scorer in Bangladesh's second innings, arriving at 71 for five and helping to steer them towards 242. It seemed he had done enough to secure their long- awaited second Test win.

This time, however, the tourists came out determined to prove that they had learned their lesson. Aaron Redmond, whose father Rodney had scored 107 and 56 on debut but was never picked for another Test, showed the way, occupying the crease for nearly five and a half hours in a painstaking 79. And Vettori took them to the threshold of victory.

Vettori, Shakib and Abdur Razzak accounted for 22 wickets in all, the second-highest total by left-arm spinners in a Test after India's match with Pakistan at Bangalore in 1986-87, when Maninder Singh, Ravi Shastri and Iqbal Qasim collected 24.

Man of the Match: D. L. Vettori.
Close of play: First day, Bangladesh 183-4 (Mehrab Hossain 79, Mushfiqur Rahim 59); Second day, New Zealand 155-9 (Vettori 48); Third day, Bangladesh 184-8 (Mashrafe bin Mortaza 5, Abdur Razzak 0); Fourth day, New Zealand 145-2 (Redmond 62, Vettori 0).

© John Wisden & Co.