A fiery spell of short-pitched bowling – assisted by a remarkable over from part-time spinner Mahmudullah – helped Bangladesh dismiss New Zealand for 539 and secure a lead of 56 in Wellington.
The Test continued to head towards a draw as 73-run seventh wicket partnership between BJ Watling and Mitchell Santner followed a resplendent 177 from Tom Latham. But by virtue of keeping their disciplines and harnessing scoreboard pressure – why else would you bother putting up 595 for 8 – the visitors injected a little thrill back into the game, just in time for the organisers to announce free entry for the final day.
Kamrul Islam Rabbi and his accurate bouncers off a slingy action were particularly hard to deal with. He struck Neil Wagner on the shoulder once, then on the grille, which shifted back to bruise his chin and finally on the back of his neck as well. Wagner required medical attention from the physio multiple times but refused to go off the field until he was dismissed off a top-edged a pull. Imrul Kayes took the catch, his fifth of the match making it the best haul by a substitute wicketkeeper in Tests.
While everyone knew that wicket was coming, Mahmudullah’s were huge surprises. He often bowls in limited-overs cricket, especially at home, on slow, turning pitches. But the Basin Reserve was nothing like that. The healthy grass cover on the surface made sure it together well enough that even on the fourth day there was no spin. The bounce and pace was true and the ball kept coming onto the bat so a spinner has to deceive batsmen in the air.
So naturally the match had to break open with a silly old short ball down leg stump. Watling, on 49, wound up, trying to pull it to the fine leg boundary, but all he could do was feather and edge through to Kayes, who had run three feet or so to his left, desperate to stop byes. He had his eyes turned away from the ball when it settled snugly in his gloves.
This sequence of pure comedy was so baffling that umpire Paul Reiffel didn’t spot the edge. Shakib Al Hasan, taking over leadership duties briefly with vice-captain Tamim Iqbal off the field at that time and captain Mushfiqur Rahim injured, opted for a review and when confirmation of the nick came the entire team erupted in laughter. A few moments later Tim Southee was trapped lbw by Mahmudullah and Bangladesh were in splits.
There was one person who was decidedly stormy at that turn of events. Latham. He was in the middle for 329 balls to make his highest Test score. Since his first-class debut in 2010, only twice had he and the batting crease spent more time together. In 2013, he lasted 423 balls for an unbeaten 241 and in 2014 when a 383-ball investment gave him 261 runs. He fell attempting a shot that contributes a lot to him being an all-conditions batsman – the sweep.
Latham misjudged the line as Shakib tossed the ball up on middle and off. There was no room to work with, and it was a tad too full as well, sneaking under his bat to hit his front pad in front of middle stump. His 177 made it to the top 10 scores by an opener in New Zealand and he walked off to warm applause from the Sunday crowd, who at one point might have been wondering if play would begin on time.
Steady rain was forecast and it remained quite overcast, heavily misty even. But the umpires thought conditions were still good enough to start play on time at 10.30 am. That had to be pushed back by three minutes considering the New Zealand team was only just getting to the ground.
The home fans must have been chuffed with Santner though, who despite being ruffled by a short-ball barrage from the Bangladesh quicks, showed a willingness to fight it out. He took a blow to the helmet from Taskin Ahmed and nearly gloved Rabbi to the wicketkeeper but persevered through troubling times and began smacked the ball around in the final session – his cuts and pulls particularly vicious – until he was last man out for 73 with six fours and three sixes.
While Santner has impressed ever since he was drafted into the Test team in Australia in 2015, Henry Nicholls has been the opposite. The selectors clearly trust his talent; they’ve kept persisting with him at No. 5 despite an average below 30. He had the chance to repay their faith on a flat pitch but, having worked hard to make 53, he tickled a drifter from Shakib heading down leg stump to a gleeful Mehedi at leg gully. It was like catching practice.
Colin de Grandhomme hammered a four and six and then inside edged Subashis Roy to Kayes to give the debutant his first Test wicket.
Source: ESPN Cricinfo