A fine day to be a Bangladesh fan in Wellington
As Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim made merry at Basin Reserve, Bangladeshi expats came out in big numbers to celebrate one of their best days in Test cricket
Basin Reserve, on the second day of the Test match, became a little piece of Bangladesh in New Zealand. A sizable expatriate community turned up on a beautiful day, a stark contrast to the first day when gales up to 75kph blew through Wellington.
Beyond the picket fences, friends and colleagues met after decades, former Bangladesh team-mates reminisced about the tough old days of previous New Zealand tours, and the home crowd applauded every boundary and batting milestone as much as they celebrated a wicket taken by Kane Williamson's side.
Against this backdrop Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim batted beautifully, calmly picking apart the New Zealand bowling. They brought out drives, cuts, pulls, hooks and edges past the slip cordon. Catches were dropped, run-out chances were missed and swinging deliveries evaded both edges of the bat a number of times. But they fought on, and laced boundaries along the lush outfield.
The Bangladeshi expats' smiles broadened whenever they gazed at the scoreboard. Everywhere you could hear versions of: "Just look at that scorecard. It swells us with pride."
As news of the big partnership spread, many came in from their workplaces during their lunch break, joining in the merry-making. Watching this game on TV wasn't enough for Bangladeshis living in Wellington. Having followed the six losses in the preceding ODIs and T20s with disappointment, this was their chance to enjoy the better times.
Al Sahariar, who played 15 Tests for Bangladesh between 2000 and 2003 and scored a fifty on their first Test tour in 2001, travelled to Wellington from Napier where he had settled with his family after finishing his playing career.
Even while he reconnected with former team-mates Akram Khan and Minhajul Abedin, here as BCB's cricket operations chairman and chief selector respectively, he mouthed praises every time Shakib and Mushfiqur middled the ball, struck a boundary or even left the ball resolutely. "Just look at how they are batting today. Who wouldn't love seeing them bat like this? This is just superb," he said.
Sahariar is from the generation of Bangladesh cricketers who struggled at the highest level despite oozing with talent at the domestic and Associate level for years. He spoke of Bangladesh's tours in their early days in Test cricket. Every day was a struggle, but then underdogs often have the most gripping stories.
Here, the visitors had fought through a difficult first day, magnified by conditions that had more to offer for the bowlers. It was credit enough that, at a venue where teams batting first did not cross 221 in the last three years, they had got off to a solid start before the Shakib-Mushfiqur run-fest began. Seeing how Bangladesh were applying themselves to the challenge of taking on a strong bowling line-up in tough away conditions, especially after floundering in the ODIs and T20s, it would be fair to say this team has taken a giant leap of progress from those which played here in 2001 and 2008. In 2010, Bangladesh's batsmen put up something of a fight in their one-off Test in Hamilton, but today was something else.
Standing in front of the New Zealand cricket museum, former New Zealand Cricket president Don Neely marvelled at the way Shakib and Mushfiqur built the partnership. As both batsmen approached their centuries, Neely wondered who would reach the three-figure mark first.
Shakib got there a few balls later and, as he took his time to taking off his helmet, a standing ovation was underway. The good vibe didn't abate as the pair piled on 359 runs. It was a day to savour for Bangladesh fans, most of whom would have just been waking up back home to what had already become one of their most memorable days in Test cricket. But, in terms of egging their team on, they did not have to worry about missing out; Shakib and Mushfiqur were properly celebrated in Wellington, by Bangladeshi expats and New Zealanders alike.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84