A maiden double-century from Shakib Al Hasan and 159 stately runs from Mushfiqur Rahim drove New Zealand into the ground on the second day in Wellington. Along the way, they recorded the highest partnership for Bangladesh in Test cricket – 359 – their second highest total away from home – 542 for 7 – and endless smiles on the faces of fans back home staying up through the night.
The theme of play on Friday made it seem like Basin Reserve was a farmer’s market. It was bathed in sunshine but the Northerly was nowhere to be found, clearly it didn’t like what was being sold. “Time for runs,” said the sign posted over the pitch. “Fair enough,” said Bangladesh’s two most experienced players and batted 82.2 overs in each other’s company. Shakib’s 217, at a remarkable strike rate of 78, was the highest individual score by a Bangladesh batsman in Test cricket, while Mushfiqur only just missed out on batting through the entire day.
“Patience for wickets? Lovely, darling patience for a pretty packet of wickets?” tempted the old gaffer who kept following Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and Colin de Grandhomme. The New Zealand bowlers bought into the deal initially. They targeted left-handers from around the wicket, placing the ball in the off-stump corridor and one of them snatched Mominul Haque’s edge in the third over of the day. It was the 44th instance that caught Watling bowled Southee featured on a scorecard, going past caught Smith bowled Hadlee. New Zealand didn’t quite keep their end of the bargain from the middle session onwards, leaking 273 in 61 overs at a run-rate of 4.47.
Mushfiqur had to deal with a spate of bouncers early in his innings, copping blows to his fingers while awkwardly fending the ball away. But he wouldn’t give in. This pain was nothing compared to what he would have to endure if Bangladesh collapsed from a position of strength, again.
Coming back from a hamstring injury, Mushfiqur relied on his guts to survive. It was clear he was fuelled by the desire to show that the team he leads can do well outside their borders. He waited for the full deliveries to come and when they did, put them away gracefully. Lashes through cover, a push past mid-off, a stunning on-drive for four and excellently controlled glides through point fed his fourth Test century, which he celebrated by drawing out what looked like a coin from his pocket and raising it aloft.
Shakib, meanwhile, had far fewer moments of discomfort because he was able to pick the bouncer early. He was happy to leave an over that was packed with them from Wagner, who plays on batsmen’s egos to hustle them out. But the moment the short ball failed to rise high enough, he was onto it, pulling and cutting with no half-measures. With 128 of his runs coming behind the wicket, he moved to second place among Bangladesh’s top-run getters in Test cricket. He eventually fell with ten minutes to go for stumps, chopping on to Wagner’s bowling.
New Zealand would rue the catches that they couldn’t hold on to. Mushfiqur, on 28, flailed at a wide delivery from de Grandhomme, a very thick outside edge flew too quickly for Jeet Raval leaping up at second slip. He could only get fingertips to it. While that was a very difficult chance, on the first day Mitchell Santner dropped a straightforward one off Shakib when he was on 4.
The second new ball presented the chance for wickets and Boult was particularly effective in making it swing. He squared Shakib up with a full delivery from wide of the crease and the angle made the batsman opt for a flick. A little swing away took the leading edge but there was no third slip to capitalise on it. In the same over, Boult, going around the wicket, used seam movement to trouble Mushfiqur, to the extent that he inside-edged on to the leg stump but the bails, weighted in light of the winds usually prevalent in Wellington, did not move. Boult eventually got his man for 159, as a little bit of reverse swing away from the bat took the outside edge through to Watling behind the stumps.
A wicket off the final ball of the day – Mehedi Hasan for 0 – rang a little hollow for New Zealand, but they should not lose hope yet. The pitch had flattened out, there were no signs of deterioration, and the outfield was lightning. There were more runs to be scored at Basin Reserve. Agencies