“I will only hope that we don’t give away the game in the opening 10 overs because if you lose a couple of wickets in the opening 10 overs, it gets difficult to make a comeback. We did that in the opening two games and paid the price and we hope not to make those mistakes in the next game.”
That’s what Tamim Iqbal shared had said ahead of the final ODI, but come the match day, he did exactly what he wasn’t supposed to. In a 330-run chase, he danced down the track and slashed at a wide delivery going away from him, only to edge it to the ‘keeper. Wicket# 1 – thrown away.
Two balls later, Tim Southee got a ball to swing into Soumya Sarkar and hit the top of the middle stump. Wicket# 2 – Almost unplayable.
10 balls later, set a field for a conventional outswing, Southee gets the ball to go straight and traps Liton Das leg-before. Wicket# 3 – Analysis didn’t matter any longer, Bangladesh were tottering.
The pressure of scorecard is often a factor that makes batting second – a decision that Bangladesh took after winning the toss – complicated. The visiting batsmen only compounded the troubles for themselves in a fashion they often have with their inability to work themselves out of such pressures. In the first five overs, only one run was scored off the bat. While Southee helped their cause by conceding seven wides in this period, he had more than made up for it with three scalps, wiping out the top order in the first eight balls of his spell.
Bangladesh’s harakiri made it easier for New Zealand bowlers to work on their plans. Quite a few things helped them on the way. A top order collapse, Mushfiqur Rahim’s struggled stay at the wicket after getting hurt on his finger by a rising delivery from Southee, and an ever-creeping required rate which forced the batsmen to take risks.
The bowlers didn’t have to force the narrative of play as under pressure, Bangladesh batsmen often erred in their shot making and provided them with wicket-taking opportunities. Mushfiqur got an outside edge to third man while looking to flick a delivery from middle stump, Mahmudullah miscued to deep square leg, leaving the top five back in the pavilion with only 61 on the board.
Sabbir Rahman and Saifuddin revived Bangladesh in what was possibly their only good period of play in the game. Sabbir, who was dropped early on in his innings at fine leg, took good advantage of the reprieve. While the duo played their shots, they took too many risks without keeping in tune with the required rate. After having steadied the innings, the nature of batting seemed to lack purpose. It was running its own course, independent of the target at hand. One of the many bizarre decisions was their over-cautiousness against Mitchell Santner.
Nonetheless, Sabbir worked his way to a fine half-century, the only noteworthy knock among the Bangladeshi batters. Saifuddin, who was also their most impressive bowler on the day, played a worthy second fiddle. However, soon after their hundred-run partnership, Boult was brought back into the attack and Saifuddin was scalped, top edging a pull to Martin Guptill.
Southee, too, returned from the other end and bagged his fourth wicket, getting Mortaza to top edge a pull to fine leg. The double blow further dented Bangladesh’s chances but Sabbir delayed the inevitable. He continued to bat despite some trouble caused by a Lockie Ferguson bouncer which had hit the grill of his helmet. He went on to stroke his maiden century, kissed the pitch, gestured unpleasantly towards the dressing room and maybe cemented his spot in the world cup squad, but couldn’t help Bangladesh’s win the game.
The inevitable was delayed courtesy a half-century stand between Sabbir and Mehidy, but it was not to be for too long as Southee clinched his fifer by dismissing the latter and followed it up by having Sabbir caught and bowled to bundle them out for 242.
For as crisp as Southee’s bowling performance was, it was a victory set up by the batters. The batting was methodical, it was textbook, and till the 40th over of their innings, largely boring. Even as there was every reason for New Zealand to go slam-bang-wham on a good-paced wicket, short boundaries and reasonably weak bowling attack, they stuck to a conventional approach of playing safe cricket to set the base and go on the assault thereafter.
The fact that they could execute it to their liking, after the dismissal of the openers, helped their case. Colin Munro lost another opportunity as he was trapped leg-before in the fifth over while Martin Guptill faced a rare failure in this series after getting off to a good start.
However, the base of New Zealand’s innings was set by the middle order – Henry Nicholls, Ross Taylor and Tom Latham – all of whom stroked fifties. The acceleration was provided by the lower middle order – James Neesham (37 off 24), Colin de Grandhomme (37* off 15) and Mitchell Santner (16* off 9).
Taylor, who came in to the match, averaging over 80 at the University Oval in Dunedin, needed 51 more to go past Stephen Fleming to become the highest run-getter for New Zealand in ODIs. He was aware of the looming milestone. Yet, with displaying an over-aggressive or over-cautious approach, he collected those runs en route a 92-run partnership with Nicholls.
The feature of the partnership was the ability of the batsmen to avoid the temptation of hitting over the in-field. The partnership largely relied on plucking ones and twos, apart from the odd boundaries through the gaps. However, it came to an end when Nicholls tried to slog sweep Mehidy Hasan from outside the off stump to top edge it to the fielder at deep mid wicket.
Nonetheless, Taylor ensured New Zealand’s innings wasn’t derailed and brought up his 47th ODI fifty, a run before he went past Fleming’s tally and was honoured with a standing ovation by the crowd. However, when the time came to press the accelerator, he fell playing a heave to the deep mid wicket fielder.
However, it proved to be for the good for the hosts as Neesham, early in his innings, slammed Mahmudullah for two sixes in one over and began the assault. Latham joined in too, flicking Rubel Hossain over the leg side boundary twice in one over. But it was Mustafizur Rahman, who became the prime target. The left-armer did manage to account for both their wickets in the death overs but ended up conceding 93 from his quota of overs, with the duo putting on 65 off 40 balls.
De Grandhomme and Santner provided the flourish in the last 21 balls, collecting 46 runs from it to power the total to 330.
New Zealand may have cleaned up the ODI series 3-0, finishing off with a complete performance, there are a few areas of concern that they will look to address going into the world cup, primary among them will be the wides conceded. On Wednesday, the count was 18.
Brief Scores: New Zealand 330/6 in 50 overs (Ross Taylor 69, Henry Nicholls 64; Mustafizur Rahman 2-93, Mehidy Hasan 1-43) beat Bangladesh 242 in 47.2 (Sabbir Rahman 102, Saifuddin 44; Tim Southee 6-65, Trent Boult 2-37) by 88 runs
Ross Taylor surpassed Stephen Fleming’s tally of 8007 runs to become the highest run-getter for New Zealand in ODIs. He also became the fourth-fastest batsman to the 8000-run mark, behind Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, and Sourav Ganguly.