Keep calm and spread the joy - youngsters provide the spark for Bangladesh

Five players, all between 20 and 26 of age, have given the visiting side a rare day to remember in New Zealand

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Najmul Hossain Shanto steers one behind, New Zealand vs Bangladesh, 1st Test, Mount Maunganui, Day 2, January 2, 2022

Najmul Hossain Shanto did a stellar job from No. 3  •  Getty Images

Bangladesh were desperate to have their batters go about their work in a shanto (calm) way, and find some joy in the process after a tough 2021. Appropriately, Najmul Hossain Shanto and Mahmudul Hasan Joy, with a patient 104-run second-wicket stand, did the needful in the first Test against New Zealand in Mount Maunganui.
New Zealand are the Test world champions, especially formidable at home. Therefore, to bowl them out for 328 and then finish the second day on 175 for 2 - just 153 short - with the runs coming from two young batters means a lot for a struggling Test side like Bangladesh.
"The younger guys today played phenomenally," Neil Wagner, who has picked up both the Bangladesh wickets to fall so far, said after the day's play. "I thought they played patiently. They didn't really give too many opportunities. They hung in there. They were prepared to dig in. They left the ball quite a lot. It made us ask more questions, and take wickets. It gave them the opportunity to score.
"I thought that they played really well. Full credit to them. I thought when the ball was there to be scored, they scored. They also left well and defended well."
But, to make it Bangladesh's day, it needed more than just those runs. Shoriful Islam, the 20-year-old left-arm quick, added Rachin Ravindra's wicket to the two he had on the first day to get Bangladesh going on the second morning, and offspinner Mehidy Hasan Miraz, very experienced despite being just 24, got rid of most of the tail. This was the first time New Zealand were bowled out for less than 350 by Bangladesh on home turf.
That put the onus on the batters. If they failed to build on the bowlers' work, the pressure would be right back on the top four, who were woeful at home against Pakistan recently.
Shadman Islam, older than the others at 26, 23-year-old Shanto and 21-year-old Joy were part of the top four that looked incapable of buying a run against the likes of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali, and were expected to be under fire against New Zealand's quicks. On the day, they were not.
Shadman and Joy added 43 for the first wicket to set a platform, but Shanto batted like the ideal No. 3, mixing defence and attack smartly. He was the aggressor of the two during their big stand, driving beautifully - he hit Neil Wagner, Trent Boult and Kyle Jamieson for fours straight down the ground.
"Joy and Shadman gave us a nice platform. It was handy for me. When I joined Joy at the crease, we just focused ball-by-ball, over-by-over and then on to the number of hours," Shanto said. "We didn't want to force the issue. We didn't set big goals, like runs or overs. Joy batted well, but I think it would have been a better day had I remained unbeaten at the end too."
Joy did survive a close lbw shout off Wagner - the New Zealanders thought he had inside-edged the ball, but a review would have sent the batter back. But otherwise, it was a chanceless 211-ball stay for Joy, who ended the day on 70. Shanto got out for 64, but he had done the job before that.
Mehidy, who has come up through Bangladesh's Under-19 system like Joy, Shanto, Shadman and Shoriful, said that the batting performance had given the team a lot of confidence.
"It was a very good partnership," he said. "Our top order wasn't getting these partnerships recently, so this has given us a lot of confidence. We have to bat well in the first session tomorrow. I think we have a long way to go."
Mehidy was particularly effusive in his praise for Joy's performance. "His innings is definitely a positive sign for our team," he said. "His batting definitely helped the team. Joy batted well, took his time. He didn't look like he was a new player. He adjusted well to the conditions and situation.
"He is a member of the Under-19 World Cup-winning team [in 2020]. He did well in South Africa last year, and also made runs in domestic cricket before coming into the senior side. I think he has a lot to give to Bangladesh. The whole team has appreciated his batting."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84