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New Zealand are now just two points behind India in the Test rankings

Injury-hit Bangladesh face stiff New Zealand challenge

NZ v Ban, 1st Test, preview

After sweeping the one-day international series 3-0, New Zealand, the new No.2 Test team in the world, are favourites in the three-match Test series against Bangladesh.

Overview

New Zealand v Bangladesh
1st Test
Seddon Park, Hamilton
Thursday, 27 February 2019 – Monday, 3 March 2019, 11:00am local time, 10:00pm GMT (-1) 

The last few months have seen upsets and strong overseas performances. India completed their first-ever Test series win in Australia, Sri Lanka matched their Asian neighbours' feat with a historic Test series win in South Africa, while England travelled successfully to Sri Lanka and New Zealand pipped Pakistan in the UAE.

Hence, hosts New Zealand would do well to be wary of Bangladesh, even though it is a clash between the No.2 ranked side on the MRF Tyres ICC Test Team Rankings and the No.9 side. As captain Kane Williamson said, "Anybody can beat anybody."

New Zealand are in the hunt for a fifth straight Test series win. They have recalled Todd Astle to their Test squad and the leg-spinner replaced Ajaz Patel as the only change from the squad that played Sri Lanka at home in December. Williamson will lead their batting with Tom Latham, who hit a double century against Sri Lanka, and Ross Taylor giving their captain strong support.

Jeet Raval is the other opener and Henry Nicholls, wicket-keeper BJ Watling and Colin de Grandhomme make up the middle order. The experienced new-ball pair of Tim Southee and Trent Boult will be backed up by New Zealand's workhorse, Neil Wagner. Will Young and Matt Henry have been left out of the starting XI.

Bangladesh are still searching for their first Test win in New Zealand
Bangladesh are still searching for their first Test win in New Zealand

Bangladesh, who have never won a match in New Zealand, will have their task cut out facing swing bowling at pace. Their experiences in Windies, where they were bundled out for 43, will be still fresh.

That they will be without two of their most experienced players – Shakib Al Hasan, the regular Test captain, and Mushfiqur Rahim – only makes it harder for them. Hasan is nursing a broken finger and did not participate in the ODI series, while Rahim has injuries to his rib and fingers.

Mahmudullah, standing in as captain, agreed that the conditions "would be tough" for his side, but he hoped to play "positive" cricket. Soumya Sarkar has been recalled in Hasan's absence and will have an opportunity to cement his place in the team.

Kane Williamson is not taking his opponents lightly
Kane Williamson is not taking his opponents lightly

Tamim Iqbal and Mominul Haque are the other experienced batsmen in the squad and the likes of Shadman Islam, Liton Das and Mohammad Mithun will have to bat around them.

Mehidy Hasan is the lead spinner and will have Taijul Islam for company, although in conditions vastly different from the spin-friendly environs at home. Mustafizur Rahman, Abu Jayed and Khaled Ahmed make up the pace attack.

Key players

Tom Latham (New Zealand): He accumulated 658 runs from seven Tests in 2018 and was also named in the ICC Test Team of the Year. Home conditions suit him the best – he registered his career-best 264* against Sri Lanka late last year and will look to begin 2019 on a positive note.

Mominul Haque (Bangladesh): The top-order batsman has two centuries in his last five innings and also has good memories of New Zealand: he scored a half-century in Wellington on Bangladesh's last tour to the country. Along with Iqbal, Haque will be responsible for giving his team a good start.

Conditions

The curator at Seddon Park, Karl Johnson, has said the pitch is expected to have more appreciable bounce and carry than usual. As for the spinners, Johnson said, "The pitches in New Zealand don't break up but I think there will be bounce for them." Hamilton is expected to be sunny for the most part, with some cloud cover expected on the second and third days.

Teams

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling, Colin de Grandhomme, Todd Astle, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult

Bangladesh (from): Mahmudullah (c), Tamim Iqbal, Shadman Islam, Mominul Haque, Mohammad Mithun, Mushfiqur Rahim, Liton Das, Mehidy Hasan, Taijul Islam, Mustafizur Rahman, Abu Jayed, Khaled Ahmed, Nayeem Hasan, Ebadat Hossain, Soumya Sarkar

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