An unbeaten 79 by Mehrab Hossain jnr helped square the honours on the first day of the first Test between Bangladesh and New Zealand in Chittagong. With Bangladesh down to 44 for 4 soon after lunch, New Zealand looked set to dismiss the hosts for another low score before a 139-run stand between Mehrab and Mushfiqur Rahim resurrected the innings.
Both teams came into the Test with a few jitters; Bangladesh have had just one win in their Test history, while New Zealand had lost four of their last five Tests - all against England. Bangladesh's batsmen and New Zealand's fielders showed nerves early on but, just when the visiting bowlers put their team on top, they let their opponents back into the game. Mehrab finished the day unbeaten on 79, while Mushfiqur will resume tomorrow on 59.
The day started with the New Zealanders missing opportunities. After dismissing Junaid Siddique without a run on the board, three simple chances were grassed over the next few overs. Rajin Saleh was put down by wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum, while Aaron Redmond dropped a straightforward chance at second slip to give Tamim Iqbal his first life. Both chances came before the hosts had a run on the board. Soon after, Tamim was dropped again at short leg to deny offspinner Jeetan Patel a deserved wicket. Luckily for the New Zealanders, both men were dismissed early after lunch for 20 and 18 respectively, joining Siddique and captain Mohammad Ashraful back in the pavilion.
Before Mehrab and Mushfiqur came to the wicket, the run-rate had barely moved past one run an over - when Ashraful fell, Bangladesh were 44 for 4 after 43 overs, the top-order batsmen more concerned with survival than scoring. The new pair began in similar slow fashion but then began to dominate the bowling, looking to score runs rather than keep their wickets in hand. The ploy worked, with their unbroken 139-run stand a record fifth-wicket partnership for Bangladesh.
New Zealand's bowlers must also get credit for stifling the scoring in the first half of the day. They bowled on the spot most of the day and gave their opposition little chance to dominate. The pick of the bowlers were Iain O'Brien and captain Daniel Vettori. O'Brien finished the day with 2 for 25 off 17 overs, while Vettori also claimed two giving away just 50 runs from his 28 overs. Debutant Jesse Ryder was unlucky not to claim his first Test wicket in his first over; a yorker thundered into Saleh's back foot, which seemed dead in front of middle stump, but it was not given out.
Instead, the fielding let them down, surprising since it's something the team focuses hard on during training. Today was a reflection of how important it is; the visitors could have easily had Bangladesh at 0 for 3. Bangladesh, though, managed to claw back. Mehrab showed those that went before him that runs could be made on this pitch, if scoring, not survival, was the intention.
The game is well set up heading into the second day. New Zealand can wrap up the Bangladesh innings tomorrow but will want to build a substantial innings lead over the next few days. With the pitch likely to break up over the coming sessions, they will not want to be chasing many runs on the fourth or fifth days.
Peter Burdon is a cricket writer based in New Zealand