Mushfiqur Rahim returns to lead the Test side after sustaining an injury © AFP
Mushfiqur Rahim returns to lead the Test side after sustaining an injury © AFP

After suffering a whitewash in the One-Day International (ODI) and the T20 International (T20I) series, Bangladesh take on New Zealand in the first Test at Basin Reserve, Wellington. Bangladesh were not spared even in the only warm-up match they played ahead of the tour. They lost that 50-over match by 3 wickets to a second tier New Zealand XI. However, Tests are a different ball game. Bangladesh are coming at the back of an impressive Test win, which came against England at home. They also drew the Test series 1-1. It was Mehedi Hasan, who spun a web around the English batsmen and came away with 16 wickets in the first matches of his Test career.

While the pitches in New Zealand — by no stretch of imagination — will be spinners’ nightmare, Bangladesh have made things worse for themselves by announcing that their strike bowler Mustafizur Rahman will be rested for the first Test. This paves the way for Taskin Ahmed (24 wickets in 10 First-Class matches at 29) to make his Test debut. Bangladesh have also gone in with three spinners for this tour, which include Mehedi Hasan, Taijul Islam and all-rounder Shakib-al-Hasan.

Full Cricket Scorecard: Bangladesh vs New Zealand 1st Test at Wellington

But Bangladesh do have a few good players, who can put up a formidable fight against the Black Caps in the longest format. Let us take a look at the likely XI Mushfiqur Rahim-led Bangladesh might field at Wellington:

Top-order: Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes will be the openers for Bangladesh. Tamim scored a brilliant ton in the previous Test and will be raring to go in this match as well. He averages 50 in three Tests in New Zealand, which are excellent numbers.  He has had a few good starts in the ODI and T20I series, but did not make it big. The Test series presents him with an opportunity for him to get among the runs. Kayes suffered an injury in the third T20I and as a result did not bat, but was dismissed for a duck in the other two matches of the series. Kayes too played a few useful hands in the series against England and will want to continue in the longest format..

Mominul’s highest Test score of 181 came against New Zealand in 2013. He also scored an unbeaten 126 in that series. Mominul’s Test average is over 51, which makes him as one of the most reliable and consistent batsmen in the side. However, much of Mominul’s success came against New Zealand while playing at home. It will be interesting to see how he performs on the wickets in New Zealand.

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Middle-order: Mahmudullah scored a ton in 2010, when Bangladesh toured New Zealand, which happens to be his only century of his career. He scored a fifty in the T20I series and got off to a few starts against England in the Test series, but could not convert them into anything substantial. Batting at No. 4, a lot will be expected of him. Shakib Al Hasan will follow Mahmudullah No. 5. Shakib has not been in good form with the bat of late, but he has the capability of turning things around. His last ton was back in November 2014, but if he fails with the bat, he can always be expected to contribute with the ball.

Bangladesh had a setback when Mushfiqur was injured during the ODI series, but he will be fit and available to lead the team in Tests. His leadership will be tested to the hilt as Mushfiqur will not be provided with conditions in which his best bowlers — the spinners — can thrive. For Bangladesh and Mushfiqur, to the trick will be in remaining patient to get wickets. Sabbir Rahman will be entrusted to come in next, which gives depth to Bangladesh’s batting. It will be a toss-up between him and the talented Soumya Sarkar, but with three left-handers in the top 5, Sabbir, the right-hander may get the preference. Sabbir has had a good beginning to his Test career and Bangladesh will continue to persist with him.

Bowlers: In Mustafizur’s absence, Taskin will make his much-awaited Test debut. It will be a major achievement for the fast bowler, after the trouble he has been through with his bowling action. It will be difficult to drop Mehedi after he picked up 19 wickets in his debut series. Bangladesh may want to continue with the young spinner and see what he can achieve overseas. Rubel Hossain has not played a Test in over a year and a half, but he picked up 7 wickets in three T20Is ahead of this game. His pace will surely come in handy on these surfaces. His best bowling figures of 5 for 166 came at Hamilton in 2010. He is the most experienced fast bowler in the squad and will have to lead this attack from the front.

Subhasis Roy, with an experience of 51 First-Class matches and 136 wickets, might be given a Test debut. He made his ODI debut recently. He was called up for the second Test against England, but this might be the match where he will be given his deserved debut.

Bangladesh’s likely XI for first Test against New Zealand: Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Mominul Haque, Mahmudullah, Shakib-al-Hasan, Sabbir Rahman, Mushfiqur Rahim (c&wk), Mehedi Hasan, Rubel Hossain, Taskin Ahmed, Subhasis Roy

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