Soumya Sarkar latches onto a short ball © AFP
New Zealand 715 for 6 dec (Williamson 200*, Latham 161, Raval 132) beat Bangladesh 234 (Tamim 126, Wagner 5-47) and 424 for 8 (Soumya 149, Mahmudullah 146, Boult 5-123) by an innings and 52 runs
It didn’t quite reach the epic proportions of Angelo Mathews and Kusal Mendis batting all day in Wellington, and the means adopted were rather different, but Soumya Sarkar and Mahmudullah gave Bangladesh plenty of reason to cheer with their defiance in Hamilton.
They couldn’t pull off the miracle of denying New Zealand victory, but they delayed it significantly with a rousing, counterattacking stand of 235 for the fifth wicket. New Zealand eventually wrapped up victory by an innings and 52 runs, but the margin could have been a lot wider; Bangladesh started day four needing 307 runs to make New Zealand bat again, with six wickets in hand.
Almost half the scheduled day’s play had elapsed when Trent Boult finally broke the fifth-wicket partnership with the second new ball, Soumya bowled playing across the line, possibly looking for a single to take him to 150. That wicket quickly brought others in its wake, and Boult was soon celebrating a five-for when he had the tailender Abu Jayed bowled playing down the wrong line.
But Mahmudullah would not be budged, and was seeing the ball well enough to play some of the most breathtaking shots of his innings: a pair of hooked sixes off Neil Wagner, and a pair of back-foot drives through cover point off Boult. He finally fell in the fourth over after tea, slapping Tim Southee straight to deep point, by which time he had made 146, his highest Test score, and a real statement as Bangladesh’s stand-in captain.
Southee would get the last wicket too, the third umpire upholding a caught-behind decision when RTS showed a spike the frame after the ball passed Ebadat Hossain’s outside edge. It was an ironic end to the Test match; Mahmudullah could have been out first ball on day three if the third umpire had overturned an on-field decision of not-out under very similar circumstances.
In the end, though, this match will be remembered for the quality batsmanship on display.
For the bulk of his innings, Mahmudullah was the less aggressive partner to Soumya in a partnership that galloped along at 4.31 runs per over, fighting fire with fire.
Soumya took only 94 balls to reach his hundred – it was the joint-quickest by a Bangladesh batsman, alongside Tamim Iqbal’s effort at Lord’s in 2010 – and the pace of his scoring had everything to do with his clear-headed response to New Zealand’s short-ball tactics. In a first hour full of bouncers Neil Wagner and Boult, both left-armers changing their angle of attack frequently, Soumya kept stepping back and across and kept hooking, ignoring the leg-side boundary riders.
He wasn’t always in control – he finished with an overall control percentage of 75, and 67 against Wagner – but he didn’t waver from his plan. Sixty-seven of his 149 runs, as a result, came behind square on the leg side, as did eight of his 21 fours and four of his five sixes.
Mahmudullah was a little more selective in his approach, ducking and weaving out of the way of the bouncers or hopping to get on top of the bounce and keep the ball down, and only occasionally rolling his wrists over a pull or hook.
By the time New Zealand made their first bowling change of the day, Boult and Wagner had conceded 57 runs off 11 overs. If their bowling was a little one-dimensional, it had quite a lot to do with the pitch, which, like most surfaces in these parts over recent years, has become progressively flatter as the match has gone on.
It isn’t a coincidence that the visiting side has been bowled out in less than 100 overs in the first innings of each of five Tests played in New Zealand since the start of 2018, and that they have each time managed to breach the 100-over mark in the second innings.
Between the first hour and the taking of the second new ball, Todd Astle’s legspin was a constant from one end, and New Zealand will have been disappointed with his lack of control. There were plenty of loose balls in his 13 overs on day four, which went for 54 runs, as Soumya and Mahmudullah milked him with no trouble.
In conditions with almost nothing in them for any style of bowling, New Zealand finally found some respite when the second new ball began swinging straightaway. Having been beaten by both Boult and Southee initially, Soumya was just beginning to come to grips with the swing – he hit Southee for three silky drives to the off-side boundary in the 84th over – when Boult finally sneaked one through him.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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