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Neil Wagner

Wagner’s five-for puts New Zealand on top, despite Iqbal ton

NZ v Ban, 1st Test, Day 1, report

A characteristic short-ball burst from Neil Wagner gave the left-arm pacer his sixth career five-for and sent Bangladesh packing for 234 on the opening day of the first Test in Hamilton.

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It brought to naught Tamim Iqbal’s blistering hundred, featuring 21 fours and a six, earlier in the day. By stumps on Thursday, 28 February, New Zealand had moved to 86 for no loss, well-placed to grab a big first-innings lead.

This was not the end Bangladesh would have envisioned in the morning when, after being invited to make first use of the surface, they pillaged 122 runs before lunch. Iqbal alone had made 86 of those – 60 of them through fours. By then, Iqbal had dominated stands of 57 with Shadman Islam (24) and 64 with Mominul Haque (12), who tickled a Wagner short ball to the wicket-keeper eight balls before the interval.

Tamim Iqbal tries to get his balance right during one of his big hits
Tamim Iqbal tries to get his balance right during one of his big hits

However, New Zealand bounced back with five wickets in the post-lunch session. Many of Bangladesh’s dismissals through this period were avoidable. Iqbal’s bullish innings had set a positive tone for the visitors to begin the series on. But soon, positivity turned into over-ambition, and by tea, Bangladesh were 217/7, having undone a lot of their good work in the morning.

It began with the first wicket to fall after the break. Mohammad Mithun tried to drag a Wagner short ball from outside off, but was undone by the extra bounce, sending a top-edge to mid-wicket running back.

Wagner is relentless with the short stuff on most days. On days such as this, he can be a nightmare. Moreover, New Zealand went all-in with the ploy from both ends. Tim Southee banged it in outside Soumya Sarkar’s off-stump, having the batsman in two minds and eventually gloving to the keeper.

Then, Colin de Grandhomme snapped up the big fish. It was an antithetical ending to an innings of such ferocity. Having laid into the New Zealand attack with a barrage of boundaries, Iqbal picked the most harmless of deliveries – a long hop outside off – and guided it into the hands of Kane Williamson at gully. With three wickets gone for 33 runs, Bangladesh were in the middle of a collapse.

Things never looked up thereafter. Mahmudullah, like Mithun, dared to pull Wagner and sent a top-edge down long leg’s throat. By tea, Bangladesh had lost their last recognised batsman, Mehidy Hasan, who couldn’t successfully fend away another short ball from Wagner, being caught at short leg.

With the core of the batting having hardly shown restraint, not much could be expected of the lower order. In four overs after tea, Wagner and Southee took the three remaining wickets to wrap up the Bangladesh innings in under 60 overs.

Having pulled the bulk of the weight with the ball, Wagner’s day wasn’t done yet, as he was seen padded up, to be used as nightwatchman. But Jeet Raval and Tom Latham didn’t let the need arise, holding fort for 28 overs. Raval notched up his eighth Test fifty, while Latham’s golden home summer continued, with him looking good for another fifty of his own.

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