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Bangladesh, New Zealand begin final lap of World Cup prep

New Zealand haven't beaten Bangladesh at their backyard in 13 years, and will aim to do so without several of their heavy-hitters

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Lockie Ferguson will lead the New Zealand side in Bangladesh  •  AFP

Lockie Ferguson will lead the New Zealand side in Bangladesh  •  AFP

The first ODI series between these sides in Bangladesh in ten years comes at a critical time for both teams. Essentially a warm-up series before the 2023 ODI World Cup, New Zealand have the option of checking the fitness of five of their World Cup players, while the rest could be back for a Test series in November. The home side have plenty on their plate though, with their World Cup team still not firmed up. In addition, New Zealand haven't beaten Bangladesh in their backyard in 13 years, so there's that record to sort out for the visitors.

New Zealand bring one-third of their World Cup team

New Zealand have sent only five World Cup-bound players to Bangladesh. Lockie Ferguson leads the side that also includes Trent Boult, Rachin Ravindra, Ish Sodhi and Will Young.
Boult returned to ODIs this year only last week when he played against England, and was later picked in their World Cup squad. Ravindra has impressed as an allrounder in 2023, taking 11 wickets while scoring 179 runs at 29.83 average. Sodhi has taken seven wickets in nine games this year while Young is their second-highest scorer in ODIs in 2023.
Ferguson's choice as captain is an interesting one as he has only led in one game in his competitive cricket career - a warm-up T20 between New Zealand and Gloucestershire last month.
Dean Foxcroft is the only uncapped cricketer in the squad while Dane Cleaver's only ODI appearance was in July last year. The rest of the squad has been involved in ODIs this year.

Hosts bring back the stalwarts

Bangladesh have rested several of their World Cup squad members including captain Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim. Mehidy Hasan Miraz and the pace trio of Taskin Ahmed, Hasan Mamhud and Shoriful Islam have also been given a break. But, they have dropped Shamim Hossain, Afif Hossain and Mohammad Naim from the Asia Cup squad.
Tamim Iqbal and Mahmudullah have returned to the ODI side. Tamim reversed his retirement decision in July, but quit the ODI captaincy last month. He missed the Asia Cup due to his injuries but has since recovered well for the New Zealand series.
Bangladesh have also called up wicketkeeper Nurul Hasan, and the uncapped trio of Zakir Hasan, Rishad Hossain and Khaled Ahmed. The biggest surprise is Soumya Sarkar's inclusion, as the left-handed batter had hardly done much in the two-and-a-half years out of the ODI setup.

Bilateral relevance

Often, these bilateral ODI series have little meaning. The hype ahead of the World Cup, however, has turned it into a necessary encounter between two teams who could take a second look at their backups. New Zealand are still waiting on Tim Southee's availability for the World Cup. The fast bowler will undergo surgery on Thursday for the thumb injury he sustained against England last week but New Zealand remain hopeful that he will recover in time for the marquee event.
Bangladesh, too, have plenty to ponder as they are without the injured Najmul Hossain Shanto and Ebadot Hossain. Shanto could return in time for the World Cup but Ebadot is out for a long period. They need to find a backup at No. 3, while one of the fast bowlers must grab Ebadot's place and replicate his performance.

New Zealand's poor record in Bangladesh

Bangladesh are on a long unbeaten run against New Zealand at home. They won 4-0 in 2010 and 3-0 in 2013, leaving the visitors with just one win in eight outings in Bangladesh. That came in the 2011 World Cup quarterfinals against South Africa. Bangladesh also beat New Zealand 3-2 in a bilateral T20I series in 2021, although that touring team from New Zealand also bore a similar experimental look.

Pace and bounce in Mirpur?

Bangladesh have preferred the more batting-friendly pitches of Chattogram and Sylhet for home ODIs in the last two years. Shere Bangla National Stadium's reputation as the spin bastion changed slightly during the Afghanistan Test in June this year when the fast bowlers took 14 wickets. The ground average for the side batting first in a day-night game is a surprising 254 in the last seven ODIs here. On five of these occasions, the team batting first has won the game too.
A bit of pace and bounce won't be surprising in Dhaka this time as well. The weather, though, could be a concern as rain is in the forecast for all three ODIs.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84