Like most Bangladesh-New Zealand bilateral contests, the one beginning on Wednesday in Dhaka has the familiar one-sided feel to it. Pitches and weather have often contributed to it here, where the visitors have won just one out of their last eleven bilateral matches. But this time New Zealand’s decision to send a completely different team on their Bangladesh tour – to the one that will play the T20 World Cup – tilts the odds further towards the home side.
It is not just their lack of experience, although it is hard to miss Bangladesh’s 602 caps in T20Is in the current squad compared to New Zealand’s 100. The hosts are generally considered masters of their own conditions. Much stronger New Zealand sides have capitulated in white-ball matches in 2010 and 2013.
Bangladesh are also a confident side these days, after crushing Australia 4-1 in the T20I series in August, when their bowlers bailed out their batters more times than not.
Bangladesh are as much favorites at home as New Zealand are in their backyard against Bangladesh, and this series will be a chance to exact revenge for the March tour where New Zealand won all six white-ball matches.
The hosts are banking on the same formula with which they beat Australia. The slow and low pitches at the Shere Bangla National Stadium will offer Shakib Al Hasan and Nasum Ahmed biting spin, even with the new ball, to slow down powerful top-order batters.
Mustafizur Rahman‘s cutters usually grip on the surface to pose a greater threat to the batting line-up. Shoriful Islam has also impressed with his variations while offspinner Mahedi Hasan is capable of bringing the odd breakthrough.
The home side has glitches in the opening partnership and a misfiring lower order. Soumya Sarkar and Mohammad Naim struggled against Australia although they added a Bangladesh record opening stand of 102 against Zimbabwe in July.
But they expect Mushfiqur Rahim, who was missing from the Australia series, to add stability to the middle order. Liton Das is also in the mix but much will depend on the Shakib-Rahim-Mahmudullah trio.
New Zealand enter this territory with very little experience in their ranks. Colin de Grandhomme, Scott Kuggeleijn and captain Tom Latham are the only members who have played at least 10 T20Is. Latham, who played the last of 13 T20Is in 2017, has to lead the way, along with Henry Nicholls, Tom Blundell and Will Young. They will sorely miss Finn Allen, who tested positive for Covid-19 two days after arriving in Dhaka.
New Zealand’s three uncapped players – Cole McConchie, Rachin Ravindra and Ben Sears – could use this tour as an early lesson in subcontinent conditions for the rest of their careers. McConchie is a big-hitting middle-order batter who bowls offspin, a handy option given they have only one specialist spinner – Ajaz Patel – in the squad. Ravindra and Sears are much talked about as young talents in New Zealand’s cricketing circles.
The visitors have six fast bowlers to choose from, with Hamish Bennett being the senior-most, as well as the only one in the side to have played in Bangladesh before, in 2010. Matt Henry joining the attack later in the series, as replacement for Allen, will boost them, but until then, their batting will have to do the heavy-lifting.
(last five completed matches; most recent first)
New Zealand: WWWWL
Players to watch
Mushfiqur Rahim is the sort of person who would be fired up to make up for missing the Australia series due to strict quarantine protocols. He will be a welcome addition to the middle order that has to do the heavy lifting when the top-order has looked inconsistent.
Injury robbed Colin de Grandhomme of crucial time in their last home season, but this Bangladesh tour could be an opportunity for him to remind the selectors of his quality. de Grandhomme is also fresh from playing in the Hundred, although the pitches here will be vastly different from the ones in England.
For Liton to make the cut, Bangladesh have to drop Soumya Sarkar, who has been the least successful among the three openers. Bangladesh had an injury scare during Monday’s training when Afif Hossain hurt his hand at the nets, but it is believed not to be serious.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Mohammad Naim, 2 Liton Das, 3 Shakib Al Hasan, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim, 5 Mahmudullah (capt), 6 Nurul Hasan (wk), 7 Afif Hossain, 8 Mahedi Hasan, 9 Shoriful Islam, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Nasum Ahmed
New Zealand will make at least ten changes to the side that last played a T20I. Ajaz could lead a three-man spin attack which would mean debuts for McConchie and Ravindra. For the series opener, they might opt for experience over youth in the pace attack.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Henry Nicholls, 2 Will Young, 3 Rachin Ravindra, 4 Tom Latham (capt & wk), 5 Tom Blundell, 6 Cole McConchie, 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Doug Bracewell, 9 Scott Kuggeleijn, 10 Hamish Bennett, 11 Ajaz Patel
Pitch and conditions
The low and slow pitches are likely to continue where teams batting first have averaged around 125 in the previous T20I series. There’s a slight possibility of rain on Wednesday.
- Bennett is the only one in this squad to have played international cricket in Bangladesh, but Sears and Ravindra too have toured before to play in the Under-19 World Cup in 2016.
- Will Young is the only New Zealand player in the current side who played their last T20I in April.
“There are a lot of allrounders in the group, which makes it easier to find the right combination. We have some new guys in the group, some experienced and some inexperienced, so a mixture of that makes for an exciting tour.”
New Zealand stand-in captain Tom Latham
“The wicket is tough to predict in Dhaka at any time but I feel it is better to have a positive mindset. We can adjust during the match if we see it is different than what we predicted, rather than going into the game with a mindset that it will be a 110-120 wicket. That would be a negative mindset. If we can execute our plans, we will get a good score here.”
Bangladesh captain Mahmudullah
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84