Chris Cairns was a man in a hurry as he blasted 34 runs off 16 balls © Getty Images|
While both teams had difficulties on the slow pitch at the Bangabandhu ground, New Zealand struggled less, and won the final match of the three-match series by 83 runs. It had been a difficult strip to play on: only Scott Styris, Craig McMillan and Chris Cairns handled it well. They snatched back the initiative after Bangladesh had prised out their top order. In the end, their contribution during the late overs - 99 runs in the last ten - took the game out of Bangladesh's reach.
Styris scored 51, a responsible innings that gave his side stability after they were reduced to 105 for 4. He and McMillan put on 86 runs for the fifth wicket, and made the runway ready for a take off. That Cairns took off the way he did where others struggled to score was as astonishing as the distance of his hefty blows. In 16 balls, he smacked 34 runs. It was the third-top score of innings, and runs came far more easily than with him at the crease than when either Styris or Mathew Sinclair were. In Cairns, New Zealand had an x-factor that Bangladesh just didn't.
Though New Zealand started the day well, with a 72-run opening partnership, they looked uneasy, as if unsure of how to deal with the slow track. Sinclair and Nathan Astle tried to blast their way out when patience was required instead. They did have some success, however, against Tapash Baisya, who went for 22 in four overs before being taken out of the attack. Against the other bowlers, runs did not come quite so easily. The slow scoring rate led to Chris Harris's promotion to No.3 in the order after Astle' run out, but when he arrived at the crease, his innings was cut short by umpire Akhtaruddin who adjudged him leg-before to a delivery that pitched well outside the line of leg stump.
Not long afterwards, Hamish Marshall followed, chipping a catch off Mohammad Rafique to Rajin Saleh (102 for 3). Sinclair, at the other end, had contributed to Astle's run out, taking a non-existent single, but shrugged it off and continued to keep the scoreboard ticking. He managed to pierce through the wall of fielders, but had his moments of indecision, when balls just about missed the edge of his bat, and an attempted hoick over long-on flew over the man at square leg. He finally fell, chipping one back to Rafique (105 for 4).
Rafique (4 for 63) had conceded only 26 runs in his first seven overs, but Styris and Cairns dented those figures. Rafique was repeatedly swatted for boundaries, and nothing he tried could stop the run-flow. Even though he removed Styris, who scored 51, as well as McMillan, who hammered back a catch, he came up against a murderous Cairns.
Rafique had his moment in the sun, though, when he opened the batting for only the fifth time in 68 games. Before he was dismissed for 21, he played off-side strokes of quality. But his side were always in the doghouse after being reduced to 48 for 3, and the innings thereafter was a struggle less for success, more for survival. Nafis Iqbal scored a slow 40, and Khaled Mashud remained unbeaten on 36.
The victory meant that New Zealand had won every international of the tour. But Bangladesh's brief periods of resistance were heartening. They were beaten badly in most encounters, but were not giving up without a fight.
Rahul Bhatia is on the staff of Wisden Cricinfo